Asylum Seekers Who Got Stuck in Mexico Beat Trump’s Catch-22

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration can’t enforce an asylum ban on a group of Central American refugees who were turned away from the U.S. border before July 16, a federal judge ruled.

Under the government’s so-called metering policy, asylum seekers arriving at the southern U.S. border were told to wait in Mexico until their application could be processed.

But refugees on the wait list, who got to the U.S. border before July 16, ended up in a Catch-22 as the Trump administration began barring entry to those who didn’t unsuccessfully first apply in Mexico or another country they passed through.

Mexico requires refugees to apply within 30 days of entering the country, according to U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant in San Diego. The immigrants who were told to wait to apply in the U.S. missed their window in Mexico and “unintentionally and irrevocably” relinquished their right to seek asylum in either Mexico or the U.S., the judge said.

The refugees “did exactly what the government told them to do,” Bashant said. “Now, the government is arguing that these class members never attempted to enter, entered, or arrived at a port of entry before July 16.”

The so-called asylum ban was put on hold initially by a federal judge in Oakland, but the U.S. Supreme Court said in September the administration could implement it while its legality is challenged in court.

The case is Al Otro Lado v. McAleenan, 17-cv-02366, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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