Trump administration asks top court to restore asylum order

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[December 12, 2018]  By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) - President Donald Trump's administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to let his order barring asylum for immigrants who enter the United States illegally take effect even as litigation over the matter proceeds.

The U.S. Justice Department asked the court to lift a temporary restraining order against the asylum rules issued by San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar. Trump has taken a hard line toward legal and illegal immigration since taking office last year.

Citing what he called an overwhelmed immigration system, Trump issued a proclamation on Nov. 9 that authorities process asylum claims only for migrants crossing the southern U.S. border at an official port of entry. Tigar blocked the rules on Nov. 19, drawing Trump's ire.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused on Friday to lift Tigar's injunction pending an appeal by the administration, saying the government "has not established that it is likely to prevail."

The Justice Department said in its request to the Supreme Court that the injunction frustrated the government's effort to re-establish control over the southern border and reduce illegal crossings.

Trump issued his proclamation alongside a new administration rule that effectively prohibited asylum for migrants crossing from Mexico outside a port of entry. The policy came as the government sought ways to block thousands of Central Americans traveling in caravans to escape violence and poverty at home from entering the United States.

Immigrant rights groups immediately sued, arguing the policy violated federal immigration and administrative law.

In his ruling, Tigar said Congress clearly mandated that immigrants were eligible for asylum regardless of where they enter the country.

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Dunia, an asylum seeker from Honduras, is reunited with her five-year-old son Wilman at Brownsville South Padre International Airport in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., following their separation of more than five weeks through the Trump administration's "Zero Tolerance" policy, July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

The ruling prompted Trump to blast the 9th Circuit as a "disgrace" and dismiss Tigar as an "Obama judge." Tigar was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

That criticism led to an extraordinary rebuke by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who issued a public response to Trump.

"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," said Roberts, a conservative who was appointed by Republican former President George W. Bush.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)

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