Federal Court Blocks Trump Asylum Ban from Being Applied to Thousands of Asylum Seekers

Provides Important Protection for Those Previously Turned Back at Ports of Entry


SAN DIEGO – A federal judge today blocked the Trump administration’s asylum ban from being applied to thousands of asylum seekers who were unlawfully prevented from accessing the U.S. asylum process before the ban was implemented. 

The case is Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, a  class action lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Center for Constitutional Rights, and the American Immigration Council on behalf of individual asylum seekers and the legal services organization Al Otro Lado (AOL). 

“Today’s order will protect the lives of asylum seekers who were forced to endure extreme hardship while waiting in dangerous border cities for months for their chance to seek asylum in the United States,” said Erika Pinheiro, AOL director of litigation and policy. “These asylum seekers have a deep commitment to following our laws in seeking protection, and we are relieved to see that their decision to follow our government's instructions to wait in Mexico will not prejudice their chances for relief.” 

Added Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, “Today’s ruling is another important limitation on the Trump administration's cruel, relentless, and lawless attack on asylum seekers and the asylum system. It recognizes that, Trump’s efforts notwithstanding, courts can and should preserve this country’s commitment to international human rights principles.  We hope the court’s decision will protect the lives and safety of thousands of vulnerable individuals fleeing dangerous conditions at home.”  

The latest iteration of the asylum ban requires asylum seekers to have been previously denied protection in a country they traveled through en route to the United States before they may be eligible for asylum here. After the ban went into full nationwide effect in September, the rights groups filed a motion to protect the thousands of asylum seekers already being forced to wait under the administration’s policy of turning them back at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border through metering before the date the ban went into effect – July 16, 2019. The metering policy, which they are challenging, requires asylum seekers to get on long waitlists before they can seek asylum at a port of entry. 

“While there is still a long road ahead, today’s ruling is an important one for the thousands of asylum seekers who followed the ‘rules’ and waited their turn, only to be told they were out of luck once the new ban was announced,” according to Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “These vulnerable individuals, many of whom waited for months to apply for asylum, simply want an opportunity to have the merits of their asylum cases heard.” 

The injunction prevents the application of the asylum ban to categorically deny asylum to those vulnerable asylum seekers who should have been processed months ago. Today's ruling applies to a provisional class that the court certified as part of its decision.   

Read more about the case here

The order issued by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant of the Southern District of California, can be viewed here

The Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, and American Immigration Council filed the lawsuit, Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, No. 3:17-cv-02366 (S.D. Cal.), in July 2017 on behalf of individual asylum seekers and Al Otro Lado, an immigration legal services provider with offices in Mexico and California.  

Al Otro Lado provides cross-border legal services to deportees, refugees, and families separated by unjust immigration laws. With the help of our nonprofit partners and almost 1,000 volunteers, we connect our clients with free legal, medical, mental health, and other social services they need to heal and thrive. Al Otro Lado employs impact litigation and policy advocacy to promote systemic changes that protect immigrants’ rights. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org and follow us on social media: Southern Poverty Law Center on Facebook and @splcenter on Twitter. 

The American Immigration Council works to strengthen America by shaping how America thinks about and acts towards immigrants and immigration and by working toward a more fair and just immigration system that opens its doors to those in need of protection and unleashes the energy and skills that immigrants bring. The Council brings together problem solvers and employs four coordinated approaches to advance change—litigation, research, legislative and administrative advocacy, and communications. Follow the latest Council news and information on ImmigrationImpact.com and Twitter @immcouncil.




The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

November 19, 2019