White House, immigration advocates face off over asylum rule changes

A legal fight over how and where immigrants can apply for asylum is complicating matters on the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of asylum-seekers have gathered in Tijuana.

On Nov. 25, U.S. border agents closed for several hours the only authorized border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego and fired tear gas at immigrants trying to cross the border illegally. Women and children were among the crowds of people fleeing the gas. Administration officials said border agents are authorized to use force to defend themselves and to protect the border. More than 5,000 asylum-seekers from Central America are gathered in Tijuana.

Two weeks earlier, on Nov. 9, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a rule barring anyone who enters the United States illegally from applying for asylum. On Nov. 19, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar of San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order blocking that rule. He wrote that the rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that any immigrant who enters the United States, “whether or not at a designated port of arrival,” may apply for asylum “irrespective of such alien’s status.”

Tigar’s ruling prompted a war of words between President Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Trump criticized Tigar as “an Obama judge.” Roberts issued a rare public rebuke, saying, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.” 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the administration will appeal Tigar’s ruling as soon as possible. She said the ruling is “dangerous” for the country.

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