In a major win for the Trump administration, the Supreme Court issued an order late Wednesday ending all injunctions that had blocked the White House’s ban on asylum for anyone trying to enter the U.S. by traveling through a third country, such as Mexico, without seeking protection there.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals – long a liberal bastion that has been aggressively reshaped into a more moderate court by the Trump administration – handed the White House a partial victory in the case on Monday by ending the nationwide injunction. But the 9th Circuit kept the injunction alive within the territorial boundaries of the circuit — which encompasses California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Guam, Oregon and Washington.
The Supreme Court’s order was not a final ruling on the policy’s merits but does allow the policy to take effect nationwide, including in the 9th Circuit, while the case makes its way through the lower courts.
President Trump tweeted that the ruling was a “BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!” The administration had argued in a brief to the Supreme Court Tuesday that unless the nationwide injunction is lifted, it “would severely disrupt the orderly administration of an already overburdened asylum system.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.
“Once again the Executive Branch has issued a rule that seeks to upend longstanding practices regarding refugees who seek shelter from persecution,” Sotomayor and Ginsburg wrote.
The legal challenge to the new policy has a brief but somewhat convoluted history. Obama-appointed U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco blocked the new policy from taking effect in late July. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed Tigar’s order so that it effectively applied only in Arizona and California, states that are within the 9th Circuit.
That left the administration free to enforce the policy on asylum seekers arriving in New Mexico and Texas. Tigar issued a new order on Monday that reimposed a nationwide hold on asylum policy.
In his ruling Monday, Tigar stressed a “need to maintain uniform immigration policy” and found that nonprofit organizations such as Al Otro Lado don’t know where asylum seekers who enter the U.S. will end up living and making their case to remain in the country.
President Trump said he disagreed with the judge’s ruling, and the idea of single federal judges issuing nationwide injunctions in general — a phenomenon that has exploded under his administration.
“I think it’s very unfair that he does that,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a trip to North Carolina. “I don’t think it should be allowed.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that a sole judge shouldn’t have the ability to exert such a broad impact on immigration policy.
“This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law,” she said.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals then narrowed Tiger’s his order again on Tuesday by issuing an administrative stay. The stay blocked Tiger’s order nationally, but ruled it still had could take effect within the 9th Circuit’s boundaries.
The high-court action leaves the administration free to impose the new policy everywhere while the court case against it continues.
The Trump administration has reason for optimism now that the case is back in the 9th Circuit. The San Francisco-based appellate court has seven Trump-appointed federal judges — more than any other federal appellate bench.
The radical transformation of the court, which has 29 seats, is largely the result of Trump’s push to nominate conservative judges and bypass traditional consultations with Senate Democrats.
Thirteen of the 29 seats are now occupied by GOP-appointed judges. Last year, that number stood at six.
“Thanks to Trump, the liberal 9th Circuit is no longer liberal,” The Washington Post noted earlier this year.
This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates. Fox News’ Shannon Bream and The Associated Press contributed to this report.