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SCOTUS rules against Trump on asylum seekers who cross border illegally; Justice Roberts sides with liberal wing


The 5-4 ruling upheld a lower court's decision

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The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that President Donald Trump cannot automatically deny asylum bids from anyone who crossed the U.S. border illegally.

What was this ruling about?

On Nov. 9, Trump declared that the United States would refuse to grant asylum for anyone who did not enter the country through one of its official ports of entry. This was in reaction to the caravan of migrants who had been working their way up through Central America, on their way to the U.S. border. Trump said that this change in existing policy was necessary to ensure national security.

Current federal law says that anyone can request asylum "whether or not at a designated port of arrival" and "irrespective of such alien's status."

On Nov. 19, a U.S. District Court judge blocked this order. In his ruling District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar said, "Whatever the scope of the President's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden." Trump would later dismiss Tigar as being an "Obama judge."

This ruling was upheld by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court rulings and allow the new guidelines to go into effect. In the Trump administration's application for a stay pending appeal, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco wrote that the guidelines Trump had attempted to put into place "are designed to channel asylum seekers to ports of entry, where their claims can be processed in an orderly manner; deter unlawful and dangerous border crossings; and reduce the backlog of meritless asylum claims."

How did the justices vote?

On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court decisions by a 5-4 vote. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Chief Justice John Roberts all ruled against Trump, While Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.

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