By Brandi Buchman
WASHINGTON – A group of Honduran and Mexican nationals is challenging a proclamation by President Donald Trump that anyone who crosses the southern border between official ports of entry into the United States from Mexico would be ineligible for asylum.
In a federal lawsuit filed in the District of Columbia on Tuesday, Williams and Connolly attorney Thomas Hentoff contends a Nov. 9 White House proclamation stating that asylum seekers have “no lawful basis for admission into our country,” violates the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Under the Act, non-citizens who arrive at U.S. borders are granted the statutory right to seek asylum, regardless of how they entered the country, Hentoff argues.
Additionally, the plaintiffs argue the proclamation is illegal because it “mandates a denial of credible fear determination,” even in situations where a noncitizen is on a fast track for removal but shows a “significant possibility” that he or she could establish asylum.
According to Hentoff, Trump and co-defendants Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Immigration Services director Lee Cissna and U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services asylum director John Lafferty, also violated the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act with the move.
“The rule… render ineligible for asylum any noncitizen who enters the U.S. without inspection from the across the U.S.-Mexico border. This dramatic change to the nation’s asylum laws shutters access to the asylum system for thousands of men, women and children that … are likely to have meritorious asylum claims,” the filing states.
A notice and comment period for such a rule may have addressed some of these concerns, but that period was never allotted once Trump issued the proclamation, Hentoff wrote.
As a secondary issue, the lawsuit also challenges the controversial appointment of acting attorney general Matt Whitaker.
In his current capacity, Whitaker functions as the chief arbiter of all immigration courts and proceedings.
The plaintiffs claim Whitaker is ineligible to serve because Trump violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution when selecting him to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The filing comes one day after U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, of the Northern District of California, issued a restraining order Monday barring the Trump administration for enforcing the proclamation.
Trump on Tuesday criticized the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which would likely receive any appeal of Tigar’s order and has already ruled against the administration in several immigration cases. Trump called the circuit a “disgrace” and its judges “very unfair.
“Every case that gets filed in the 9th Circuit, we get beaten. And then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court, like the travel ban, and we won,” Trump said.