Immigration judges and asylum officers in California and other states on the U.S.-Mexico border are being directed to enforce a controversial Trump administration policy that dramatically changes the way asylum petitions are handled in the United States. A federal judge in California had issued an injunction to prevent the rule’s implementation, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 11 that the first safe country policy could go into effect while the legal challenges to it are litigated. The lawsuits challenging the policy are not expected to be resolved until after the 2020 presidential election.

The rule requires those seeking asylum to make their petitions in the first safe country they enter. This means that the Central American immigrants arriving at the nation’s southern border will be denied asylum as they reached the United States by passing through Mexico, which is considered to be a safe country. Immigration advocacy groups have condemned the rule and say the Supreme Court’s decision will cost lives.

President Trump says that drastic action was needed to stem a flow of immigrants making bogus asylum claims and overwhelming border facilities. A previous Trump administration rule required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims were being evaluated. Asylum is granted to individuals who would face persecution in their home countries based on their political opinions, religion, race or national origin. The majority of these petitions are denied because asylum seekers are not able to establish that their fears are genuine and credible.

Attorneys with experience in immigration cases could explain the many other paths to legal residence in the United States to those who are unable to seek asylum. These paths include various work, investment and family-based visa programs. Attorneys could also assist immigrants facing deportation by advocating on their behalf during removal hearings.