By Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Friday dealt a setback to President Donald Trump by refusing to allow his administration to implement new rules prohibiting asylum for people who cross the U.S. border illegally, a key component of his policies aimed making it harder for immigrants to enter and stay in the United States.
The justices on a 5-4 vote denied the administration’s request to put on hold a California-based federal judge’s order at least temporarily preventing it from carrying out the policy intended make anyone crossing the U.S.-Mexican border outside of an official port of entry ineligible for asylum.
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who last month rebuked Trump over his criticism of the judiciary, joined the court’s four liberals in denying the administration’s request. Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, joined the court’s two other conservatives in dissent.
Trump had criticized San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who on Nov. 19 blocked the policy. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then refused the administration’s request to lift Tigar’s order.
Trump’s comments led to an extraordinary rebuke by Roberts, who defended the independence of the federal judiciary and wrote in a public response to Trump on Nov. 21, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said.
The asylum restrictions were made through a presidential proclamation Trump issued on Nov. 9 alongside a new administration rule. The administration has sought ways to block thousands of Central American men, women and children travelling in caravans to escape violence and poverty in their home countries from entering the United States, with Trump calling the people in the caravans a national security threat.
Trump’s proclamation stated that mass migration on the border had precipitated a crisis and he was acting to protect the U.S. national interest. Trump’s policy was crafted to alter American asylum laws that have given people fleeing persecution and violence in their homelands the ability to seek sanctuary in the United States.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)