The American Civil Liberties Union and other liberal groups filed a federal lawsuit on Friday challenging the Trump administration’s decision to deny asylum to migrants who attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally as caravans approach.
In response, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued a joint statement lamenting the “the open border community’s disdain for our nation’s laws.”
"We are confident that the rule of law will prevail,” the Trump administration statement said. “The fact that the ACLU and its partners would go to court to specifically sue for the right for aliens to enter the country illegally is demonstrative of the open border community’s disdain for our nation’s laws that almost all rational Americans find appalling.”
The ACLU was joined Friday in its lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“President Trump’s new asylum ban is illegal,” said Omar Jadwat of the ACLU. “Neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.”
The administration announced the policy Thursday under a new rule meant to crack down on "meritless" asylum claims.
The rule, which prevents migrants from claiming asylum if they do not do so at an official border crossing, is the latest attempt by the White House to handle a surge in migration to the U.S. from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
"Consistent with our immigration laws, the President has the broad authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens into the United States if he determines it to be in the national interest to do so," Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a joint statement.
A senior administration official said the White House hopes that by funneling asylum claimants to ports of entry, officials will be able to assess and adjudicate claims more rapidly. The official did not say where asylum seekers would be housed should they arrive at those ports in large numbers. The official added that the rule was not retroactive and only covers future asylum claimants.
Migrants who cross illegally are generally arrested and often seek asylum or some other form of protection. Claims have spiked in recent years, and there is a backlog of more than 800,000 cases pending in immigration court. Generally, only about 20 percent of applicants are approved.
Fox News’ Bill Mears and Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.