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Trump ‘has no legal authority’ to make asylum-seekers stay in Mexico

With various updates from Mexico and the U.S. about asylum seekers approaching the border, lawyer and journalist Jami Floyd says Trump does not have the ability to rewrite immigration law. Floyd joins Megan Thompson for more on the U.S.’s legal policies.

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  • MEGHAN THOMPSON:

    The issue of asylum at the U.S.- Mexico border has been making a lot of headlines this week spurring a debate not just over immigration policy but also about the role and independence of the U.S. judiciary. To help make sense of it all I'm joined now by attorney and journalist Jami Floyd. She's a legal analyst for WNYC the public radio station here in New York. Jami, thank you so much for being here.

  • JAMI FLOYD:

    Thanks for having me.

  • MEGHAN THOMPSON:

    So as we heard earlier in the show a President Trump has announced that he wants all migrants who are seeking asylum to stay in Mexico as their cases make their way through the U.S. courts. Does he have the legal authority to do that?

  • JAMI FLOYD:

    He does not. The asylum laws have been made by Congress and Congress has the authority to either change those laws or leave them in place. This is what the case last week was all about, that raised so much controversy in California. Judge Tigar's ruling at least temporarily, that those laws remain in place and that the asylum law as it currently stands allows migrants to come in and seek asylum.

    And the president cannot act unilaterally to change those laws. So, no, whatever he may tweet, whatever he may think he cannot act unilaterally to even work with the government of Mexico assuming he has which, we don't know that he has to make a change to our asylum laws as they currently stand.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    President Trump had wanted to just deny asylum to anybody who crossed the border illegally. Can you talk a little bit more about the legal reasoning for that ruling and what's next for that case?

  • JAMI FLOYD:

    There were two cases the one that made all the news was the one in California Judge Jon Tigar, who's in the Northern District Court which is actually a trial court. It hasn't gone to the 9th circuit as the president seems to think, that's an appellate court. This is the first stage the government asking as you say essentially to change the asylum laws and all that he said at this point is that I'm issuing a temporary restraining order on this policy that the executive branch is trying to impose because it seems to violate the laws of Congress. And in December come back to me and we will hear arguments on the merits.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    President Trump was not happy with this ruling. He called Judge Tigar an Obama judge right which then sparked a very rare rebuttal from Chief Justice John Roberts who came out and said no there's no such thing as Trump judges that such as Obama judges. Trump has made statements like this in the past about judges. Roberts hasn't said anything. Why do you think he said something now?

  • JAMI FLOYD:

    Right. I do think that he certainly wouldn't have wanted to weigh in during the midterm cycle, so maybe that was on his mind. But he is an institutionalist. He is the chief justice not just of the United States Supreme Court but of the federal judiciary of the courts. And he wants to protect, again not wanting to get inside his psychology but just having read a lot about him and knowing that he very much wants to protect the institution of the courts, he is moving forward to protect his agency in the way so many others have not in the Trump years in the Trump administration and we see an attack not just on judges but on the institutions of justice in this country. And we also saw this bruising battle over Kavanaugh, now Justice Kavanaugh, which frayed the institution of the courts, the Supreme Court and the courts in general and I think Chief Justice Roberts wants to tighten the weave of the fabric of the court at this moment in time, this critical moment in time when the courts are going to need legitimacy to protect our laws and our constitution going forward as we may be heading into a constitutional crisis.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    All right Jami Floyd thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for having me.

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