The Trump administration’s new asylum rule survived an initial court challenge Wednesday, keeping in place a directive that disqualifies a significant proportion of mostly Central American asylum-seekers who reach the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly denied requests to block the rule while a pending court case goes forward, saying, “It’s in the greater public interest to allow the administration to carry out its immigration policy.” 

Announced earlier this month, the new rule bars asylum for migrants who reach the U.S. southern border without having applied for and been denied asylum in any country they passed through on their way to the United States.

FILE – A group of Central American migrants surrenders to U.S. Border Patrol Agents south of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in El Paso, Texas, March 6, 2019.

The case was brought by two immigrant rights organizations: the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition and RAICES, or Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. Both organizations argued the asylum rule would harm migrants fleeing dangerous situations.

Kelly, who serves on the U.S. District Court in the nation’s capital, voiced doubts that plaintiffs could demonstrate the administration exceeded its authority by issuing the asylum rule. 

The White House’s legal victory could be short-lived, as a federal judge in San Francisco was to consider a separate challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union later in the day.

“We’ve filed suit to stop the Trump administration from reversing our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect people fleeing danger,” the ACLU tweeted.

Trump administration officials have said the new rule is meant to ease the strain on the U.S. asylum system. 

In a recent statement, U.S. Attorney General William Barr noted a “dramatic increase in the number of aliens” arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, adding that “[o]nly a small minority of these individuals” qualify for asylum. 

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