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Trump-appointed federal judge gives administration a win on new law regarding asylum-seekers

This law forces would-be asylum-seekers to look for asylum in other countries before the U.S.

Chris Kleponis/Pool via Bloomberg

A federal judge, who had been appointed by President Donald Trump, ruled in favor of the Trump administration regarding a new law that would force potential asylum-seekers to apply for asylum elsewhere before turning to the United States.

What are the details of the law?

Under this new law, asylum-seekers will have to prove that they applied for asylum in another country and were denied, before they can apply for asylum in the United States. This is part of an overall trend for the Trump administration of pressuring Latin American countries to bear some of the burden from illegal immigration and mass migration, particularly from migrants who are fleeing crime and unrest in Central America.

The law, which took effect Tuesday, has exceptions for human trafficking victims (who can still apply for asylum directly with the United States without going anywhere else first), for people in countries that haven't signed asylum laws, and migrants who have already been denied asylum in certain other nations.

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that this policy "will decrease forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States — while ensuring that no one is removed from the United States who is more likely than not to be tortured or persecuted on account of a protected ground."

Certain countries, including Guatemala, have balked at this and have indicated that they will not cooperate. On Twitter Tuesday, Trump threatened to slap tariffs on Guatemala if it failed to comply.

In a similar move, in May a federal court ruled that the Trump administration could make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico while their claims for U.S. asylum were being processed, provided that these people were not seeking asylum from Mexico.

What did the judge say?

District Judge Timothy J. Kelly denied a motion from immigration advocacy groups, which sought to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the rule from taking effect. Kelly ruled that the rule could remain in place while a longer court case over its legality continued.

Kelly was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Trump in 2017.

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