Most of the chaos within the Department of Homeland Security in the last few days has originated in the executive branch, where Trump — reportedly at the behest of White House senior adviser and notorious immigration hawk Stephen Miller — pushed to remove DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, ditched the nomination of acting ICE director Ron Vitiello, and reportedly told acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to fire Secret Service head Randolph “Tex” Alles.
But on Monday, the judicial branch announced it had its own wrench to throw into the administration’s self-manufactured crisis of leadership at the border. A federal judge stopped the administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which requires most non-Mexican asylum seekers to wait south of the American border while asylum requests are processed.
U.S. district judge Richard Seeborg issued a preliminary injunction against the policy after a group of asylum seekers and organizations represented by the ACLU argued that “remain in Mexico” violates American asylum law and regulatory requirements, as well as international treaty obligations. To further complicate the cross-border practice, as The Nation states, the policy “effectively outsources the Central American refugee crisis to an unwilling neighbor that is neither responsible for the problem nor capable of absorbing it.” In February, the ACLU argued that the policy increased the risk of kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder for migrants awaiting their determination on asylum status.
As Politico notes, the injunction does not “tackle the question of whether DHS has the authority to send asylum seekers to Mexico. Instead, it found that plaintiffs were likely to demonstrate that the policy did not comply with federal regulatory law.” The order will go into effect on Friday night, at which point the Trump administration will likely attempt to seek a stay in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The ruling from Judge Seeborg — who was named to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Obama in 2009 — comes as a timely reminder for the president, who is reportedly frustrated by the existence of the rule of law at the border. “At the end of the day, the President refuses to understand that the Department of Homeland Security is constrained by the laws,” a senior administration official told CNN.