July 25 (UPI) -- A federal judge in California has blocked a new rule by the Trump administration to restrict the number of Central American migrants arriving at the U.S. border, just hours after it was upheld in a different court.
The rule, implemented last week, requires the refugees to first apply for asylum in the nation they first pass through on their way to the United States. For most Central American migrants, that country is Mexico.
A day after it went into effect, the American Civil Liberties Union sought an injunction in the California court on behalf of four civil rights organizations.
Late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ordered a preliminary injunction, stating the rule is likely invalid as it's inconsistent with existing asylum laws. Tigar said the rule is invalid because only Congress has the power to bar asylum. In his ruling, he noted federal records that say Mexico is not safe for most asylum seekers, as they're likely to be "exposed to violence and abuse from third parties and government officials, denied their rights under Mexican and international law and wrongly returned to countries from which they fled persecution."
"Yet, even though this mountain of evidence points one way, the agencies went the other -- with no explanation," he wrote.
The 45-page ruling came just hours after U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly ruled to uphold the rule, saying plaintiffs failed to show how the rule would negatively affect them. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called that ruling a "victory," and said the court rejected "the attempt of a few special interest groups to block a rule that discourages abuse of our asylum system."
Tigar said, however, each judge must make their own decisions.
"My ruling is not binding on him, just as his ruling is not binding on me," he said. "We have the appellate courts to sort this out for us."
The ACLU applauded Tigar's ruling.
"The court recognized, as it did with the first asylum ban, that the Trump administration was attempting an unlawful end-run around asylum protections enacted by Congress," ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement.
Grisham criticized Tigar for opposing "a lawful and necessary rule."
"The tyranny of a dysfunctional system that permits plaintiffs to forum shop in order to find a single district judge who will purport to dictate immigration policy to the entire Nation -- even in the face of a contrary ruling by another Federal court -- must come to an end," she said.
Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart said the rule is necessary to stem the number of migrants applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump administration has long said there's a crisis at the border due to an overwhelming influx of migrants.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics say nearly 700,000 migrants were apprehended at the border during the first nine months of fiscal 2019, compared to less than 400,000 in all of last year.