People seeking asylum in the United States are seen through a fence at the San Ysidro Port of Entry Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in San Diego.

People seeking asylum in the United States are seen through a fence at the San Ysidro Port of Entry Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in San Diego.

Gregory Bull/AP

A federal judge in San Francisco has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from barring migrants from obtaining asylum if they cross the southern U.S. border outside an official port of entry. 

The judge issued a temporary restraining order in a case brought before immigrant rights groups that include Portland-based Innovation Law Lab. The groups argue the ban violates existing immigration law and would cause harm to people fleeing danger in their home countries.

“For us, an Oregon-based group that does national work, we see the ruling as an important rule of law victory,” said Stephen Manning, executive director of Innovation Law Lab.

Earlier this month, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation barring migrants from obtaining asylum if they cross the southern U.S. border outside an official port of entry.

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab and the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles filed suit soon after, arguing the new rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. 

The Justice Department argued that the president has “broad discretion to suspend the entry of aliens into the United States,” saying in a court filing it is within the Trump administration’s power to require asylum-seekers to present themselves at legal ports of entry.

The groups are legally represented by the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Innovation Law Lab provided pro bono legal services to asylum-seekers held in federal detention in Sheridan, Oregon.

“The President is engaging in a constitutionally risky experiment with children and families,” Manning said. “His proclamation to deny asylum to fleeing families was a statement of inverse reality that was used to justify an action that was a core violation of the law – the judge saw that and understood what was at stake. We saw in Sheridan what happens when those same experiments take place. For us in Oregon, the ruling affirms our approach to human dignity, equity, and inclusion – and our commitment to the rule of law.”

After their lawsuit was filed, Manning argued the President’s asylum ban would “immediately create a population of detained individuals who are in danger of immediate removal to countries where their lives are under threat.”

This is not the first time the Innovation Law Lab has challenged the Trump administration in court. In June, the group joined a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Oregon arguing attorneys were not able to meet with 121 immigration detainees who were housed at the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon.

NPR contributed to this report