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Judge denies DOJ request to pause deadlines in suit challenging asylum rules

Originally Published by The Hill.

BY JOHN BOWDEN – 12/27/18 11:34 AM EST

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has denied a request from the Trump administration to delay deadlines in a case challenging the administration’s asylum rules due to a lapse in funding from the partial government shutdown. In a court filing on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss, an Obama appointee, argued that the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) status under the partial shutdown did not prohibit the department from working on the cases due to many staffers remaining at work. “Although the Court is mindful of the current lapse in appropriations, where there is ‘some reasonable and articulable connection between the function to be performed and the safety of human life or the protection of property,’ government functions may continue,” he wrote. “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’ … and approximately 91% of Customs and Border Protection employees and 81% of Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees will be retained during a lapse in appropriations,” he added, noting administration shutdown staffing plans. The Trump administration had filed Wednesday in court asking for deadlines in existing asylum cases to be extended indefinitely until Congress fully funded the Justice Department and other agencies that saw a lapse in funding starting last Saturday. The administration has sought to restrict asylum claims by reinterpreting immigration policy to determine that such claims could be denied to any immigrant suspected of crossing the border at a location other than a legal port of entry. The administration has cited “meritless asylum claims from aliens who place a tremendous burden on our resources.” The Justice Department argues that the new asylum rule will “encourage the large number of aliens transiting Mexico” to “simply follow our laws” and cross the border legally. A federal judge in California blocked the new asylum restrictions last month, and the administration announced Wednesday that it would appeal an order from that judge extending the initial injunction on the new rule. The Supreme Court denied the administration’s emergency request to restore its rule last week. The judge’s decision Thursday follows a directive issued by the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), which informed immigration attorneys across the country on Wednesday that their cases had been delayed, most without prior notice. “Immigration courts will issue an updated notice of hearing to respondents or, if applicable, respondents’ representatives of record for each reset hearing,” the office stated. Immigration attorneys sounded off on Wednesday’s decision on social media, calling it “ridiculous.” “If it wasn’t for connecting with other attorneys on Twitter and calling the court myself, I’d have no clue what’s going on @DOJ_EOIR,” wrote one attorney with the African Hispanic Immigration Organization. Other lawsuits involving the Trump administration have also been delayed amid the shutdown, including a months-long battle over whether the president is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting foreign business through his hotel in Washington, D.C. The president’s battle with Congress over funding for his plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has led to a days-long shutdown of roughly one quarter of the federal government, with no immediate end in sight.

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