- The Supreme Court will allow the Trump administration to enforce a rule that functionally prevents most migrants at the southern border from seeking asylum in the U.S.
- A federal district judge in California had previously blocked the rule, but the Supreme Court’s new decision means that it can stay in effect while legal challenges to mandate play out.
- Under the rule, migrants who have crossed through other countries to get to the southern border cannot apply for asylum in the U.S. unless they have been denied asylum in another country or have been the subject of “severe” human trafficking.
- The rule will mostly affect Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans seeking asylum in the U.S. from gang violence and high levels of crime in their home countries.
Supreme Court Decision
The Supreme Court issued an unsigned order Wednesday allowing the Trump administration to enforce a rule that effectively prevents most Central American migrants at the southern border from seeking asylum in the U.S. while legal challenges to the rule play out.
The rule was first issued by the Trump administration in July. It mandates that any migrant who has crossed through another country to get the southern border can not apply for asylum in the U.S.
The only exceptions are for migrants who have been denied asylum in another country or who have been victims of “severe” human trafficking.
However, that does not mean people with those qualifiers will be granted asylum; it just means that they are the only ones who can even try to apply.
The Supreme Court’s order reverses a decision by a lower court to block the rule. Right after the Trump administration announced the mandate, it was challenged by immigrants rights groups in court.
Then, towards the end of July, California Federal District Judge Jon Tigar blocked the rule. In his ruling, Tigar said that the decision to bar a group of people from asylum was a decision that had to be made by Congress
As a result, he decided that the administration’s rule “is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws.” He also said that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act, or APA, which requires that there is a period of public comment before a rule is enacted.
In his decision, Tigar issued a nationwide injunction ordering the administration to continue to allow all asylum applications. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said that Tigar did not have the power to make that ruling nationwide.
While they agreed that the rule did go against the APA, they decided that the injunction could only apply to the geographic areas in the 9th District, which includes parts of California and Arizona. Meaning the other border states could still enforce the administration’s new rule.
Last month, Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court, asking them to put a stop on the block and to allow the rule to be implemented nationwide while the legal battle continued.
Francisco argued that Congress gives the departments of Justice and Homeland Security power to place restrictions on asylum seekers that go beyond the scope of the existing federal asylum law.
On Monday, Tigar reinstated his nationwide injunction. Again, it was blocked by the 9th Circuit, and again the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to lift the injunction.
Implications for U.S. Asylum Policy & Asylum Seekers
At the very top level, the rule is a massive change to the way the federal government has treated people seeking asylum under laws that have been in place for four decades.
The current federal law says that any foreign national who “who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States” can seek asylum in the country, as long as they can prove they face persecution in their home country.
A rule that allows the U.S. to deny most people showing up at the southern border the ability to even apply for asylum is a big shift.
According to the legal brief given to the Supreme Court by the ACLU, which represents the immigration rights groups challenging the rule in court, the asylum ban “would upend a forty-year unbroken status quo established when Congress first enacted the asylum laws in 1980.”
“The current ban would eliminate virtually all asylum at the southern border, even at ports of entry, for everyone except Mexicans (who do not need to transit through a third country to reach the United States),” the ACLU continued. “The Court should not permit such a tectonic change to U.S. asylum law, especially at the stay stage.”
The change in asylum policy most heavily impacts Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans, many of whom seek asylum in the U.S. from gang violence and high levels of crime in their home countries.
Migrants from those countries by far compose the majority of people seeking asylum in the U.S. in record numbers this year.
According to the New York Times, so far this fiscal year, Border Patrol has arrested 419,831 migrant family members from those countries at the U.S. border. By contrast, just 4,312 Mexican family members have been apprehended.
Most of those families who have tried to enter the U.S. to get asylum have been released to await court hearings, according to the Justice Department, which said that more than 436,000 pending cases also include an asylum application.
Notably, the Trump administration’s new rule also could hurt refugees fleeing the humanitarian and economic crisis under the Maduro regime in Venezuela, where more than four million people have already left the country, according to the UN.
That leaves many wondering where all these people will go.
Under the rule, Hondurans and Salvadorans are required to seek asylum in Guatemala or Mexico, and then be denied asylum in those places, before they can apply in the U.S. Guatemalans have to seek and be denied asylum in Mexico.
Both Guatemala and Mexico initially expressed dislike of that plan, because it would basically take the asylum problems the U.S. has and kick the can to those two countries, thus overburdening their asylum systems.
Although both countries eventually tentatively agreed, it was only after President Donald Trump had threatened them with tariffs.
While the U.S. struck a deal with Guatemala to take in more migrants, the country’s Constitutional Court has ruled that it needs further approval.
The Mexican government has also recently pushed back against the agreement that would force them to take in asylum seekers from Guatemala, which is known as the safe-third-country agreement.
The Rule Moving Forward
The Supreme Court’s Wednesday ruling was an unsigned order, and so it did not include any reason or explanation for why they blocked the lower court’s decision.
That does not mean that the highest court agrees one way or the other with the rule; it just means that they decided it can stay while the legal battles progress through court.
That, however, could take months, and until then, the rule will stay in place.
Regardless, this is a huge win on immigration for the Trump administration. Trump noted this on Twitter, writing in a tweet Wednesday, “BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!”
The president also appeared to express his support for the matter again on Thursday, writing on Twitter “Some really big Court wins on the Border lately!”
Trump is not wrong. This most recent decision follows another from the Supreme Court in July to allow the administration to use $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds for the construction of a wall along the Mexican border.
If and when the case does go to the Supreme Court, the main issue will be whether or not the administration can change asylum policy in this way without going through Congress.
The Trump administration argues that a provision in the federal law allows the attorney general to “establish additional limitations and conditions, consistent with this section, under which an alien shall be ineligible for asylum.”
However, the asylum law only has a few, narrow exceptions to the rule that any foreign national can apply for asylum.
On the other side, the ACLU argued in their Supreme Court brief that “Congress went out of its way to underscore that only bars ‘consistent with’ the entirety of the asylum laws […] were permitted.”
They also added that giving the executive branch so much authority “flouts bedrock principles of separation of powers and administrative law.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.