How Trump Judges Are Undermining

Immigrant Rights

In East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr, Trump Ninth Circuit judge Mark Bennett cast the deciding vote to allow a Trump administration rule that bars almost all Central and South American asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border to go into effect except in California and Arizona.

In Diaz-Rivas v. Attorney General, Trump Eleventh Circuit judge Britt Grant denied the asylum claim of a woman from El Salvador who fled to the U.S. after MS-13 killed her brother-in-law and threatened to kill her and the rest of her family.

In Yafai v. Pompeo, Trump Seventh Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett authored an opinion holding that a Yemeni woman’s visa application was properly denied, even though the consular officer’s conclusion that she attempted to smuggle two children into the country was lacking evidentiary support. The woman’s husband, an American citizen, provided evidence that the children, who passed away while the visa application was pending, were in fact their children.

In Alvarenga-Flores v. Sessions, Barrett wrote a 2-1 opinion affirming the Bureau of Immigration Appeals’ rejection of an El Salvadoran’s request for protection from deportation under the United National Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Alvarenga-Flores argued that if sent back to El Salvador he would be tortured or killed by gangs.

In State v. U.S. Department of Justice, Trump Second Circuit judges Richard Sullivan, Joseph Bianco, William Nardini, and Steven Menashi joined a decision not to rehear a case that held the Justice Department can withhold grant money from sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with the Justice Department’s immigration policies.

In Navarez-Garzon v. Barr, Trump Ninth Circuit judge Danielle Hunsaker voted to uphold a decision by immigration officials to reject an asylum seeker’s request for additional time to collect and translate documents in support of her application. As Judge Wardlaw noted in dissent, the woman was not represented by counsel and had been given less than four months to “to navigate her way successfully through the morass of immigration law.”

In Alexis v. Barr, Trump Fifth Circuit judge Don Willett cast the deciding vote to uphold the deportation of a Richard Lawrence Alexis, a permanent legal resident who had been in the US for almost 30 years, after he pled guilty in state court to possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance. As a result, Alexis was separated from his mother, three siblings, and a young daughter who are all U.S. citizens.

In Cuellar Garcia v. Barr, Trump Sixth Circuit judges Amul Thapar and Joan Larsen upheld the deportation of Luis Eduardo Cuellar Garcia, an immigrant who had received legal status to remain in the country after a court found that he had fled El Salvador as a child to escape gang violence and he could not return to the country due to “insufficient parental protection.” The government relied on a “new, unwritten and informal” policy to justify bringing removal proceedings against Garcia in immigration court, and Thapar and Larsen agreed with its reasoning over the strong objections of Judge Merritt.

In Cook County v. Wolf, Trump Seventh Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett argued in dissent that the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule was lawful and should be upheld. The rule would deny immigrants permanent residence if they received any form of public assistance, including Medicaid or food stamps, for more than 12 months in a three-year period, even though Congress has made these benefits available to them.

In Make the Road New York v. Wolf, Trump D.C. Circuit judge Naomi Rao would have held that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear a challenge brought against a Trump Administration policy that subjects hundreds of thousands of immigrants to expedited removal without a hearing and other procedural protections. According to Rao, immigration law “expressly bars the courts” from reviewing legal challenges to certain immigration regulations. The majority strongly disagreed that such cases are unreviewable.


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