Supreme Court upholds block on asylum ban

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling blocking the Trump administration from implementing new asylum restrictions.

Posted: Dec 23, 2018 1:19 PM
Updated: Dec 23, 2018 1:31 PM

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld a federal judge's order blocking the Trump administration's new asylum restrictions.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal justices in the 5-4 ruling.

The administration's policy, signed on November 9, would temporarily bar migrants who illegally cross into the US through the southern border from seeking asylum outside of official ports of entry. A federal judge in California quickly blocked the order, and the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

"It's a major blow to the Trump administration and sends a strong signal that there are at least five justices who agree with the district court that the asylum ban exceeds the President's statutory authority," said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Justice Department spokesman Steven Stafford said the department would continue fighting the block on the ban.

"We are disappointed that the Court did not stay one of the unprecedented 25 nationwide injunctions against the Trump administration, but the Court has not yet fully considered the merits of this case," Stafford said in a statement to CNN. "We will continue to defend the Executive Branch's lawful authority over the discretionary benefit of asylum."

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said the ruling "will save lives and keep vulnerable families and children from persecution."

"We are pleased the court refused to allow the administration to short-circuit the usual appellate process," Gelernt said.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh said they would have granted the administration's request to lift the hold on the ban. This is the first high-profile vote in which Kavanaugh broke from Roberts. Earlier this year, he and Roberts joined with liberals to rebuff efforts by states seeking to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

The court declined to say when or how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had surgery in New York Friday, cast her vote. Other justices are also not in Washington and they were not scheduled to meet as a group this week. In these situations, justices often vote by phone or email.

Roberts-Trump fight

The ruling emphasizes the power of Roberts, a conservative who has sparred at times with Trump, said CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

"It is a more conservative court now than it was before Anthony Kennedy was replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, but Chief Justice Roberts is going to keep things moving at the customary pace of the Supreme Court, not as fast as the Trump administration wants to go," Toobin told CNN's Pamela Brown.

"On this one question in a preliminary way, he has put the brakes on a Trump administration initiative and that's an embarrassment and it's a defeat for the President," he added.

The court can still hear arguments on the merits of the asylum restrictions at a later date.

The asylum ban was at the center of an unusual fight between Roberts and President Donald Trump last month.

A district court ruled the ban "irreconcilably conflicts" with immigration law. A panel of judges on the 9th Circuit upheld the injunction in an opinion penned by Judge Jay Bybee, a George W. Bush nominee. That led Trump to criticize the San Francisco-based appeals court, which has blocked other administration policies such as the travel ban.

That led Roberts, who has made a public push to emphasize the independence of the judiciary from the political branches, to issue a rare statement.

"The 9th Circuit, we're going to have to look at that," Trump said, before adding that "every case" that goes through that circuit results in "an automatic loss" for his administration. "The 9th Circuit is very unfair."

That led Roberts, who has made a public push to emphasize the independence of the judiciary from the political branches, to issue a rare statement.

"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," Roberts said. "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."

Trump fired back.

"Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have 'Obama judges,' and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an 'independent judiciary,' but if it is why......" Trump tweeted.

Several minutes later, he continued, ".....are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security - these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!"

Aggressive administration strategy

Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the Supreme Court to greenlight the regulations pending appeal because he said they are "designed to channel asylum seekers to ports of entry, where their claims can be processed in an orderly manner; deter unlawful dangerous border crossings; and reduce the backlog of a meritless asylum claims."

He said that contrary to the holding of the lower court, immigration law allows the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security to exercise their discretion to deny asylum to a migrant who has entered the nation illegally.

Francisco said that even if the justices decided not to lift the injunction they should scale back a nationwide injunction imposed by the lower court.

He also argued that the challengers did not have the legal right to bring the case because they are advocacy groups and not individual aliens.

But the Justice Department's strategy of aggressively filing appeals to the Supreme Court to overturn rulings unfavorable to the President may not be in keeping with the court's modus operandi, Toobin said.

"The Supreme Court doesn't like to be rushed, and Chief Justice Roberts in particular doesn't like to be rushed," said Toobin. "The Supreme Court operates at a very different pace than the rest of us -- they like to have full hearings on the merits, they don't care if it takes a couple extra months."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 503322

Reported Deaths: 10057
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34400541
DeSoto32318411
Hinds32074631
Jackson24551386
Rankin22103391
Lee15657235
Madison14662281
Jones13894243
Forrest13506253
Lauderdale12037318
Lowndes11091192
Lamar10531138
Pearl River9557238
Lafayette8581140
Hancock7751130
Washington7458161
Oktibbeha7152133
Monroe6796178
Warren6752176
Pontotoc6736104
Neshoba6656206
Panola6572131
Marshall6494135
Bolivar6331150
Union607794
Pike5849154
Alcorn5691102
Lincoln5468135
George502979
Scott474198
Tippah472481
Prentiss471582
Leflore4676144
Itawamba4651105
Tate4632111
Adams4617120
Copiah450092
Simpson4458116
Yazoo445388
Wayne440772
Covington429894
Sunflower4246105
Marion4236108
Coahoma4178108
Leake409888
Newton383179
Grenada3731108
Tishomingo361592
Stone360664
Jasper336565
Attala335290
Winston315391
Clay309077
Chickasaw302367
Clarke295894
Calhoun279947
Holmes268788
Smith266550
Yalobusha237247
Tallahatchie228752
Greene220649
Walthall219364
Lawrence213640
Perry206456
Amite206056
Webster203446
Noxubee186940
Montgomery179757
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169639
Tunica160139
Benton149439
Kemper142141
Choctaw134627
Claiborne132838
Humphreys129738
Franklin120728
Quitman106828
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson95934
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 821255

Reported Deaths: 15424
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1149051930
Mobile726651340
Madison52400699
Shelby37685350
Baldwin37285552
Tuscaloosa35147613
Montgomery34130740
Lee23556246
Calhoun22255490
Morgan21037378
Etowah19844500
Marshall18390304
Houston17406412
St. Clair16091339
Cullman15493293
Limestone15402199
Elmore15292286
Lauderdale14366295
Talladega13870283
DeKalb12670261
Walker11255370
Blount10227176
Autauga10061148
Jackson9909185
Coffee9215191
Dale8912186
Colbert8907201
Tallapoosa7103198
Escambia6782134
Covington6724183
Chilton6658162
Russell637659
Franklin5992105
Chambers5615142
Marion5016127
Dallas5013202
Pike4799106
Clarke477284
Geneva4577127
Winston4538103
Lawrence4352117
Bibb425686
Barbour358376
Marengo338390
Monroe332064
Randolph330264
Butler328596
Pickens317384
Henry313166
Hale311988
Cherokee303260
Fayette294580
Washington251651
Cleburne247960
Clay245568
Crenshaw245475
Macon235563
Lamar225747
Conecuh186654
Coosa180940
Lowndes175764
Wilcox169139
Bullock151844
Perry139240
Sumter133338
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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