rulings
September 9, 2019

A federal judge on Monday reinstated a nationwide injunction that prohibits the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who come to the United States without first trying to claim asylum in any of the other countries they traveled through.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar in California said because there is an ongoing court case, the policy cannot be executed anywhere along the southern border. The Trump administration announced the new policy on July 16, and under an earlier ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the administration could impose the restrictions in California or Arizona, but not Texas and New Mexico.

The Supreme Court is now considering the policy, and a ruling is expected sometime this week. "Immigration and border security policy cannot be run by any single district court judge who decides to issue a nationwide injunction," the White House said in a statement. "This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law." Catherine Garcia

September 4, 2019

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that the Terrorist Screening Database, which contains the names of people designated as "known or suspected terrorists," violates the rights of American citizens on the watchlist.

In 2017, there were about 1.2 million people on the list, which is maintained by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center and used by several agencies; roughly 4,600 were U.S. citizens. People on the watchlist can have their travel restricted, and they go through more scrutiny at airports. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security use the database to screen potential terrorism suspects, but Judge Anthony Trenga in Virginia found that "the risk of erroneous deprivation of plaintiffs' travel-related and reputational liberty interests is high, and the currently existing procedural safeguards are not sufficient to address that risk."

The lawsuit was filed by 19 U.S. citizens who said they had been detained and harassed while trying to enter the United States, and did not know why they were on the list. They argued that their due process rights were violated, and Trenga said that the way things are now, their rights are not protected. He asked the Justice Department and plaintiffs' lawyers to submit briefings on "what kind of remedy can be fashioned to adequately protect a citizen's constitutional rights while not unduly compromising public safety or national security." Catherine Garcia

July 24, 2019

A federal judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration's new rule blocking asylum claims for most Central American migrants.

Under the policy, announced July 15, migrants would be required to apply for asylum in the first country they arrive in on their way to the United States, and must be denied there before being able to apply in the U.S. As most migrants arriving at the southern border are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, a majority would have to apply for asylum in Mexico. Exceptions are made for victims of "severe" human trafficking and immigrants whose asylum applications were rejected by other countries.

In his ruling, Judge Jon S. Tigar in San Francisco wrote the "new rule is likely invalid because it is inconsistent with the existing asylum laws here," adding the government's decision to enact it was "arbitrary and capricious." Earlier in the day, a federal judge in Washington hearing a separate challenge to the policy ruled the restrictions could stay in place, but under Tigar's order, the rule cannot be carried out until there is more debate surrounding its legal issues. The Trump administration argued the policy makes it harder for people to scam the asylum system. Catherine Garcia

June 10, 2019

A judge ruled on Monday that the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Missouri, can stay open until the state's Department of Health and Senior Services makes a decision on its license.

This is the only health center providing abortions in Missouri. Judge Michael Stelzer issued the preliminary injunction, writing in his decision that the Department of Health and Senior Services has until June 21 to determine whether to renew Planned Parenthood's license. Last month, Planned Parenthood of St. Louis sued the state after being told its license wouldn't be renewed until officials spoke with five physicians who used to work at the clinic.

"Today's decision is a clear victory for our patients — and for people across Missouri — but the threat to safe, legal abortion in the state of Missouri and beyond is far from over," Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said in a statement. "We've seen just how closely anti-health politicians came to ending abortion care for an entire state. We are in a state of emergency for women's health in America." Catherine Garcia

June 3, 2019

A federal judge on Monday rejected a request from House Democrats to stop President Trump from spending unappropriated funds on his southern border wall.

Judge Trevor McFadden in Washington, D.C., said the House does not have the proper legal standing to sue the president, but does have "several political arrows in its quiver to counter perceived threats to its sphere of power. These tools show that this lawsuit is not a last resort for the House."

The lawsuit states that by transferring funds appropriated for other matters to the wall project, Trump is violating the Constitution's Appropriations Clause. In May, a judge in California issued a preliminary injunction that blocked Trump from using funds designated for the military to replace 51 miles of fence along the border. In that case, the lawsuits were brought by states and advocacy groups. Catherine Garcia

April 25, 2019

A federal judge in Yakima, Washington, granted a nationwide injunction Thursday blocking the Trump administration's new rules prohibiting federally funded health care providers from referring patients for abortions.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the policy earlier this year. Already, groups receiving money under the Title X program are not allowed to perform abortions with that funding. The new rules would have hit low-income Americans who use Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the U.S., especially hard.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian wrote that the restrictions reverse "long-standing positions of the department without proper consideration of sound medical opinions and the economic and non-economic consequences," and the Department of Health and Human Services offered "no reasoned analysis" for changing the rules. He also said the challengers, including the state of Washington and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, demonstrated that the rule "likely violates the central purpose of Title X, which is to equalize access to comprehensive, evidence-based, and voluntary family planning." Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2019

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that the practice of using tire-chalking to mark how long a car has been parked is unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit decided this violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches," and is a form of trespass requiring a warrant, The Washington Post reports. Parking enforcement officers use tire-chalking to track how long a car has been parked; once it's determined the car is in violation of time limits, a ticket is issued, bringing in revenue for the city.

The appeals court based its decision on a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, which found that police must get a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a suspect's vehicle.

Attorney Philip Ellison of Saginaw, Michigan, brought the case after his law partner received a ticket while sitting in his car, which had been chalked. Ellison wrote about this on Facebook, and a friend, Alison Taylor, commented that she had received 15 tickets due to tire-chalking. Ellison filed a civil rights lawsuit against Saginaw on Taylor's behalf; the case was first thrown out by a district court, before being reversed by the appeals court. Catherine Garcia

April 8, 2019

A federal judge on Monday issued an injunction against the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols policy, which keeps asylum seekers in Mexico while they wait for their cases to go through the immigration court system.

Under the law, migrants have the right to seek asylum once they reach U.S. soil; typically, they are housed in detention facilities or released into the United States. President Trump has claimed that many migrants are crossing the border and lying about needing asylum, knowing there isn't room at migrant detention centers and hoping they will be set free to live wherever they want in the U.S.

The Trump administration enacted its policy in January, with outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying last week she would expand the program. In his ruling blocking the policy, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco said his order will go into effect on April 12, and the administration won't be able to implement or expand the policy, The Washington Post reports. Catherine Garcia

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