Supreme Court Blocks Asylum Ban in a Rebuke to Trump

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberal justices after criticizing the president last month.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s request to let it immediately ban people from receiving asylum if they cross the border between official ports of entry. Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four liberal justices on Friday to uphold a temporary restraining order that blocks President Donald Trump’s asylum ban from going into effect.

Trump issued the asylum ban on November 9 in response to the migrant caravans he demonized in advance of the midterm elections. The ban conflicts with US immigration law, which states that migrants are eligible for asylum “whether or not” they arrive “at a designated port of arrival.”

Jon Tigar, a district court judge in California, temporarily blocked the ban on November 19 after finding that it “irreconcilably conflicts” with immigration law and congressional intent. “Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote.

Trump latched on to the fact that Tigar was appointed by former President Barack Obama. “This was an Obama judge, and I’ll tell you what, this is not going to happen anymore,” he said November 20. Roberts issued a rare rebuke of a sitting president the next day. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” he said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.” 

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Tigar’s temporary restraining order in a 2-1 ruling. “Just as we may not, as we are often reminded, ‘legislate from the bench,’ neither may the Executive legislate from the Oval Office,” Jay Bybee, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote for the majority.

The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court. Roberts, who was also appointed by Bush, sided with the court’s four Obama- and Clinton-appointed judges and against the president on Friday to keep the asylum ban blocked. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted to continue to obstruct the ban from the hospital after undergoing surgery for lung cancer.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.