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An appeals court says new asylum restrictions at the border can stay in place for now

Migrants walk in the water along the Rio Grande border with Mexico in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Suzanne Cordeiro
AFP via Getty Images
Migrants walk in the water along the Rio Grande border with Mexico in Eagle Pass, Texas.

A federal appeals court says the Biden administration's new rules for asylum-seekers at the border can continue while it considers the case.

A U.S. District judge in California had previously blocked those rules. But a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put that ruling on hold, allowing the restrictions to continue for now.

The new rules, which took effect in May, make it harder for migrants to get asylum if they cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally after passing through Mexico or another country without seeking protection there first.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar found those rules unlawful and blocked them last month, just as he had blocked similar policies during the Trump administration. But he put his ruling on hold to allow for an appeal.

The 9th Circuit panel set an expedited schedule to hear the case, likely within months. In the meantime, the panel's 2-1 decision allows the Biden administration to continue using what it has called an important tool for managing the flow of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Immigrant advocates had challenged the rules, which they say are illegally endangering asylum-seekers by requiring them to wait in border towns in northern Mexico.

"We are pleased the court placed the appeal on an expedited schedule so that it can be decided quickly, because each day the Biden administration prolongs its efforts to preserve its illegal ban, people fleeing grave danger are put in harm's way," said Katrina Eiland, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project, who argued the case last month.

"The Biden administration should uphold our asylum laws, which were designed to give people a fair chance to seek safety, not ban them arbitrarily despite their need for protection," she said in a statement.

While the 9th Circuit panel has handed the Biden administration a win in the short run, that's no guarantee of how it will ultimately rule in the case.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joel Rose
Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.