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Federal judge denies Justice Dept. request to delay deadlines in asylum ban case due to shutdown

The judge ruled that enough of the government remained funded.

Donald Trump at a September 2016 campaign event. Back then, he said Mexico would fully pay for his border wall.
Donald Trump at a September 2016 campaign event. Back then, he said Mexico would fully pay for his border wall. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Thursday, a federal judge denied the Justice Department’s request to delay deadlines in a court case challenging the Trump administration’s new asylum policies because of the government shutdown.

The Justice Department had asked for a delay on Wednesday on the basis that Congress had not been fully funding the department since the shutdown began last Saturday. In his filing on Thursday, however, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss noted that enough staffers remain working for them to be able to effectively file the asylum claims.

“The Court further notes that, according to government reports, 48% of employees from the Executive Office for Immigration Review are excepted ‘to process all immigration cases and appeals involving detained aliens,'” Judge Moss quotes in the order. “Approximately 91% of Customs and Border Protection employees and 81% of Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees will be retained during a lapse in appropriations.”

In other words, enough federal employees remain on the job that any request to postpone their workload because of the shutdown rings completely hollow.

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The main case in question is the asylum ban, which would prohibit migrants crossing the southern border from seeking asylum except at official ports of entry. The ban was initially blocked in November, and that block was again extended earlier on December 19th. The Trump administration said Wednesday that it is appealing the decision, but the Justice Department sought a delay in the case due to the shutdown. The Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review also sent out a notice Wednesday declaring to immigration attorneys that their cases had been delayed.

The Trump administration argued that “meritless asylum claims” were placing a “tremendous burden on our resources” and said it simply wanted “aliens transiting Mexico” to follow the correct procedure. This is despite the fact that asylum claims have dropped precipitously in the last year-and-a-half, and the administration’s growing restrictions on asylum eligibility.

There are numerous other administration policies, which have been struck down in court that the Trump administration is now delaying in implementing. For instance, a week ago, a judge ruled against an administration policy limiting asylum claims for immigrants fleeing gang and domestic violence, but the Trump administration asked for a delay to bring back anyone deported due to the new restrictions. The Justice Department is also dragging its feet in reunifying families it separated at the border.

This piece was updated with additional details about the ruling.