Trump wants off the hook in court cases because of the shutdown

Reuniting families separated at the border should be put on pause, the administration argues.


While President Trump is playing politics with the ongoing partial government shutdown, he also trying to take advantage of it in court. In numerous cases challenging Trump policies, the administration is arguing for delays because the Justice Department lawyers litigating the cases are prohibited from working during the shutdown. But they’re not only asking for delays of procedure; they’re also asking for delays in complying with rulings that have already come down.

Given Trump is holding the government’s budget hostage to his proposed $5 billion border wall, it’s conspicuous that his administration is now asking for these delays in several immigration cases.

For example, just a week ago, a judge struck down the administration’s policy limiting asylum claims from immigrants fleeing gang or domestic violence, ordering that at least six individuals who had been deported be brought back to have their cases reconsidered. But the Justice Department argued this week that because of the shutdown, they need more time to respond to the order that they bring these individuals back.

In another case in which the administration has been tasked with the reunifying the families it separated at the border, the Justice Department has similarly asked to pause all deadlines during the shutdown.


Delays in these cases will allow the administration to continue to implement its cruel immigration policies without complying with court oversight in the meantime.

Just this month, two children have died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the result of a backlog in processing because of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border. That’s in addition to at least 12 adults who have died in ICE custody in 2018, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Many died because of basic health conditions that were not properly treated and that quickly deteriorated in the poor conditions of these detention centers.

It’s not only in immigration cases in which Trump wants to be left off the hook. He’s also seeking a delay in a court case accusing him of illegally profiting off the presidency. Justice Department lawyers are on the case because Trump was originally sued in his capacity as the president, though the case has subsequently been amended to name him personally and he now has private attorneys representing him. The case has been bogged down by disputes over whether the suit should be dismissed as well as whether discovery can proceed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has now agreed to delay proceedings further because of the shutdown.

The partial shutdown has already lasted the better part of a week, during which nearly 400,000 federal workers are going without pay. While they are expected to receive backpay, federal contractors likely will not. The shutdown is entirely the result of Trump insisting that he will not accept any budget from Congress that does not include $5 billion for the border wall he promised Mexico would pay for.


In the past two days, Trump has flipped from claiming the workers impacted by the shutdown agree with him on the need for the wall to claiming they’re all Democrats. Showing no interest in compromise, he seems to be trying to find every opportunity to play the shutdown to his advantage.

UPDATE: On Thursday morning, a federal judge denied the Justice Department’s request to delay deadlines in a case challenging its restrictions on claiming asylum outside a port of entry.