On January 8, 2021, a U.S. judge in the Northern District of California blocked the Trump administration’s rule that would have severely limited asylum in the United States by curtailing eligibility criteria. Judge James Donato blocked the rule on the basis that Chad Wolf, whom President Trump appointed as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, did not have the authority to impose rules because he was not lawfully appointed. Noting that limiting the decision “would result in a fragmented and disjointed patchwork of immigration policy,” Judge Donato said the temporary restraining order applies nationwide.

Judge Donato said the government “has recycled exactly the same legal and factual claims made in the prior cases, as if they had not been soundly rejected in well-reasoned opinions by several courts. This is a troubling litigation strategy. In effect, the government keeps crashing the same car into a gate, hoping that someday it might break through.”

Asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border is otherwise also limited due to COVID-19 pandemic-related and other reasons. President Trump reportedly withdrew his nomination of Mr. Wolf to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security after Mr. Wolf condemned those who rioted and invaded the U.S. Capitol and said he supported an orderly transition to the Biden administration.

In another ruling on the same day, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against a Trump executive order requiring consent from state and local entities before refugees can be placed in their states or cities.

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