A woman gives a little girl some TLC as she waits at the shelter with her family. Photo by Chris Stone
An asylum seeker hugs her daughter at a shelter in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

By Mimi Dwyer | Reuters

A federal judge in California on Friday blocked the Trump administration from implementing a new rule that would have dramatically reshaped the U.S. asylum system and restricted asylum eligibility for immigrants seeking refuge in the United States.

The injunction undermines the Trump administration’s last-minute efforts to solidify its hardline immigration policies before U.S. president-elect Joe Biden takes office later this month.

U.S. District Judge James Donato of the Northern District of California granted an injunction sought by immigrant advocacy groups seeking to block the rule, which the Trump administration published on Dec. 11 and was set to take effect on Monday.

Pangea Legal Services and Immigration Equality sought to block the rule on the grounds that the Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who authorized it, was not lawfully appointed to office. A Brooklyn judge in November blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects certain migrants from deportation, on the same grounds.

“The government has recycled exactly the same legal and factual claims made in the prior cases, as if they had not been soundly rejected in well-reasoned opinions by several courts,” Donato wrote in his opinion on the asylum rule.

President Trump withdrew Wolf’s nomination on Thursday after Wolf condemned Trump’s supporters rioting inside the U.S. capitol in Washington D.C. and said he would support an orderly transition of power to president-elect Joe Biden.

The final rule would have cut off asylum access for most migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border through a series of changes to eligibility criteria, according to experts and advocates. It also directed immigration judges and asylum officers to deny broad types of asylum claims, such as those based on domestic abuse and gang violence, with some exceptions.