struggle for the border
A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction Oct. 11 against President Donald Trump's proposed plan for funding the border wall, finding that it exceeds executive branch authority under the Appropriations Act. Trump issued a proclamation in February declaring a national emergency on the southern border of the US, as both a humanitarian and security crisis. El Paso County, Tex., and the Border Network for Human Rights sued to challenge the proclamation. Going further than previous rulings against the border wall plans, Judge David Briones specifically declared Trump's emergency proclamation to be "unlawful." (Jurist, Politico, Oct. 11)
The US Supreme Court on Sept. 11 allowed enforcement of a policy that would deny asylum to Central American migrants who pass through another country en route to the US and fail to make a claim for protection there. US District Court Judge Jon Tigar blocked the new rule in July by issuing a nationwide injunction. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently scaled back the order so that it only pertained to Ninth Circuit states, which include California and Arizona. In response to Judge Tigar's recent attempt to return his order to its original scope, the Trump administration requested that the Ninth Circuit temporarily stay the injunction. The Supreme Court's decision to grant the stay authorizes the Trump administration to proceed with nationwide implementation of the policy even though it is still being challenged in the lower courts.
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Aug. 2 against the Trump administration's ban on asylum requests for people who illegally cross the border. The Trump administration issued the rule in late 2018, prohibiting migrants from applying for asylum except at legal US ports of entry. The rule was created in response to a presidential proclamation issued last November. The plaintiffs sought summary judgment to have this rule declared illegal under the Immigration & Nationality Act. They also argued the rule was improperly imposed under terms of the Administrative Procedures Act. They additionally asked for a class of asylum-seekers to be certified in the case. The government challenged each of these, arguing that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue, fail on the merits, and that the court should not certify a class. The judge held that the rule is illegal under the Immigration & Nationality Act and certified a class for the plaintiffs.
The Supreme Court on July 26 reversed a lower court decision that blocked President Trump from using $2.5 billion from military accounts to build a portion of his pledged border wall. The order lifts an injunction from a federal judge in a case brought by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition challenging Trump's February declaration of a national emergency to access more than $8 billion to build the wall. US District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Northern California issued the permanent injunction blocking the administration from accessing $2.5 billion in diverted military funds, finding that construction would cause "irreparable harm" to the challengers' interests at the border. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month declined to lift that injunction. The Supreme Court's conservative majority found that the administration had "made a sufficient showing at this stage" that the challengers do not have standing to block the diversion of the funds.
A US district court judge ruled on July 1 that the Department of Homeland Security cannot hold migrants seeking asylum indefinitely as was previously ordered by Attorney General William Barr. Judge Marsha Pechman, of the Western District of Washington in Seattle, held that section 235(b)(1)(B)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits releasing on bond persons who have been found to have a credible fear of persecution in their home country, violates the US Constitution. Pechman's decision stated that the plaintiffs in the case, Padilla vs ICE, have established that asylum seekers have "a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty" and a "right to due process, which includes a hearing."
Recent headlines from Central America shed light on the migrant exodus from the isthmus that has now sparked a political crisis in the United States. The ongoing protests against neoliberal "reform" in Honduras saw a frightening escalation June 25 as military police opened fire on students demonstrators at the National Autonomous University in Tegucigalpa, injuring at least four. President Juan Orlando Hernández has deployed the army and military police across the country after clashes left three dead last week. (BBC News, La Prensa, June 25) In a hopeful sign a few days earlier, riot police stood down in Tegucigalpa, returning to their barracks and allowing protesters to block traffic and occupy main streets. Troops of the National Directorate of Special Forces said they will not carry out anti-riot operations if they do not receive better benefits. (Reuters, June 19)
The first mission of the new security force created by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be blocking migrants on the Guatemalan border, evidently part of a deal struck with the Trump administration. Mexico has pledged to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border in an effort to avoid Trump's threatened tariff on all exports to the United States, the Washington Post reports. The deal was announced as Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is leading a Mexican delegation in talks with White House officials in Washington. Mexican officials said that 10 National Guard contingents of 450 to 600 troops each will be assigned to the border with Guatemala by September. The deployment would represent a fourfold increase on the 1,500 federal troops currently patrolling the border. A further three units will be deployed to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, to set up roadblocks and checkpoints to stop the movement of migrants.
A federal judge on May 24 blocked construction of Donald Trump's border wall, ruling that Trump cannot use a "national emergency" to take money from government agencies for the barrier. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the US District Court for Northern California ruled that the diversion of the money, largely from the US military, likely oversteps a president's statutory authority. The injunction specifically limits wall construction projects in El Paso, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz. Gilliam quoted Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who said in a TV interview the wall "is going to get built, with or without Congress." The judge said presidential action "without Congress," when legislators refuse a funding request from the White House, "does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic."