In a legal victory for Trump administration, a federal court of appeals on Friday, Aug. 16, paved the way for the U.S. government to ban Central American immigrants from seeking asylum on the two busiest sections of the southern border.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that President Donald Trump is allowed to enforce the policy in New Mexico and Texas, rejecting asylum-seekers who cross from Mexico into either state.

In July, the Justice Department and Homeland Security handed out a fresh law that prevents refugees from filing asylum requests in the United States if they did not first make a claim in the foreign country they traveled in.

Under Friday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar’s July 24 order stopping the policy would apply only in California and Arizona, which are covered by the 9th Circuit. Tigar is a nominee of former President Barack Obama. 

The two main boundary crossing regions are in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and the area around El Paso, Texas, but also New Mexico. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, nearly 50,000 individuals passed through the U.S. border in these two areas in July without permission.

The policy would deny asylum to anyone on the way to the United States passing through another country without seeking protection. Most of the people who cross the northern border are Central Americans, who would be mainly unfit. The policy would also extend to individuals coming to the southern border from Africa, Asia, and South America to apply for asylum.

If the policy is implemented, ineligible migrants who cross in New Mexico and Texas could be detained and more quickly deported. 

About 30,000 people have been returned to Mexico to await asylum hearings under the government’s Migrant Protection Protocols program. Tens of thousands of others are waiting in shelters and camps to present themselves to U.S. border agents at official ports of entry that have strict daily limits on asylum-seekers.

Currently, the United States only has a “safe third country” agreement with Canada, but the White House has worked to establish a safe third country deal with Guatemala. While a third country agreement was lately signed by the outgoing administration in Guatemala, the incoming president said his country would not be able to abide by it.

White House hailed the federal court’s ruling.

A statement of press secretary on August 16 wrote:

Although we strongly disagree with the Ninth Circuit’s decision to leave in place the district court’s unjustified injunction of the Government’s lawful action to curb asylum abuse, we are glad the Ninth Circuit recognized that the nationwide application of the injunction was improper.  

While the injunction remains overbroad – even as modified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision – we will now be able to apply the rule at issue to curb asylum abuse outside of the Ninth Circuit.  

We look forward to having the injunction lifted in its entirety on appeal so that we can protect legitimate asylum seekers, preserve resources for addressing their claims, and prevent illegal migrants who bypass regional asylum opportunities from overwhelming our asylum system.

Includes reporting from the Associated Press

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