Supreme Court Decision Allows Focus on ‘Legitimate Asylum Claims,’ Immigration Chief Says

A Supreme Court ruling allowing the Trump administration to implement a new asylum policy will help unclog the system and benefit those with “legitimate asylum claims,” one of the nation’s top immigration officials said. 

The new asylum policy “requires those coming to the southern border of the United States who want to seek asylum to have first sought it in a country they passed through and have been rejected,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said during an interview Thursday at an Axios event in Washington.

Cuccinelli, speaking to Mike Allen, executive editor of Axios, noted that the new rules from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security don’t apply to migrants from Mexico. But, he said, the change raises the bar for others who travel through Mexico to reach the U.S. 

“Frankly, from all over the world, [asylum-seekers] funnel through [the southern border],” Cuccinelli said. “So what they are doing is overwhelming the system. We can’t get through people with legitimate asylum claims.”

The Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday evening allowed the Trump administration to proceed as legal challenges go forward in lower courts.

Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general who President Donald Trump appointed June 10,  said his agency has faced constant lawsuits over its actions.

“Anything that we’ve done since I’ve gotten there, I believe there’s been a very strong legal foundation for it. However, we immediately get sued,” he said. “It’s sort of a joke in the office.” 

Suing the government to prevent policies, rules, and laws from being executed has become a common tactic, Cuccinelli said.

In fact, he was the first state attorney general to sue the federal government over Obamacare. 

“My pessimism rolls in when I see rather nakedly political decisions from the bench,” Cuccinelli said of what he considers activist judges.

As an example, he cited “temporary protected status,” an immigration status that allows individuals from other countries to live and work in the United States for a limited time. 

Cuccinelli said that by law temporary protected status can’t be a gateway to permanent resident status for immigrants, but a federal court said it could.

Because of this kind of judicial overreach, he said, the Trump administration is less willing to grant temporary protected status to those fleeing the wreckage of Hurricane Dorian. 

On the other hand, Trump’s demands for Mexico to take stronger action in securing its own southern border have made his job easier, Cuccinelli said. 

“We have never had better cooperation from Mexico with as serious a problem as we have right now,” he said. “They used to have a program where they would give you a 20-day pass to go through Mexico to get to the United States. They’re now defending their southern border.”

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