WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday upheld a Maryland law that could require local governments to provide temporary aid to people seeking asylum and to deport immigrants who haven’t committed crimes.
The ruling comes after a lawsuit brought by a group of migrants and immigrants who have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law.
The Justice Department argued that the law violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in a 4-3 ruling.
The Maryland state legislature passed the bill last month to address the nation’s “migrant crises.”
The law also would have created a “migration justice unit” within the Department of Homeland Security to handle asylum applications and deportations.
Under the law — which is the subject of an appeals court challenge by the Maryland Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Project and by immigrant advocates — the state would provide money for “advocacy, legal services, and services for refugees, asylum seekers, and persons seeking to enter the United States” who are denied asylum or face deportation.
The state would also provide funds for the “reintegration of individuals who have been unlawfully removed from the United State.”
Under the bill, a “non-refundable” fee of $1,500 would be assessed for each refugee seeking asylum in the state.
The court also ruled that the state was allowed to add the fees for other groups who are “displaced” or who face deportation, including immigrants from Central America, as a way to address their needs.
The judge, Judge Jeffrey A. Sutton, wrote in his ruling that the fees were needed because they would help “meet the needs of those who are not refugees, but who are displaced by a border state, as well as those who face threats of deportation.”
The state law has also drawn criticism from immigrants’ rights advocates who say it doesn’t go far enough to address issues such as asylum seekers who are already living in poverty.