In a setback for the Biden administration, a California federal judge struck down temporary restrictions on migrants seeking asylum, ruling that the administration's plan to reduce illegal crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border violated federal law. The rule, which Biden administration officials have credited with recent drops in illegal border crossings, penalized migrants who crossed the border illegally and rewarded those who scheduled appointments to seek asylum, the Washington Post reports. U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar stayed his ruling for 14 days to give the government time to appeal. In a case that attacked the administration from its political left, Tigar sided with advocacy groups that said the procedure endangers migrants fleeing harm and prevents migrants from seeking asylum if they crossed the border illegally. Tigar, an Obama appointee, said that the restrictions violated the Administrative Procedure Act for three reasons: They are contrary to federal law; they are “arbitrary and capricious” in part because they rely on faulty reasoning; and the public only had 30 days to comment, which he said was inadequate.
The Biden administration has asked Tigar to consider delaying his ruling longer than two weeks, a request they could also pursue at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The temporary restrictions were imposed in May. Record numbers of migrants have attempted to cross the border since Biden took office, largely fleeing pandemic-damaged economies and authoritarian governments. Without the restrictions, officials said, they anticipated that more migrants would claim asylum at the border, whether they were eligible for it or not, to gain entry into the United States. The temporary restrictions said migrants would be ineligible for asylum if they crossed the border illegally or failed to seek protection in another country on their route. Migrants could seek asylum by scheduling an appointment via a government app or by having a U.S. resident sponsor them to come to the United States.