Matt Adams, center right, Legal Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, leaves the U.S. Courthouse with others after a hearing on asylum seekers there Friday, June 28, 2019, in Seattle. A federal judge heard a challenge to a new Trump administration policy, scheduled to take effect next month, that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of allowing them to be released on bond. It targets immigrants who have recently entered the U.S. without permission and have demonstrated a credible fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home country. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (AP) — Immigrant rights activists on Friday asked a U.S. judge to block a new Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of giving them a chance to be released on bond.

Attorney General William Barr announced the policy in April as part of the administration's efforts to deter a surge of migrants at the Mexico border, and it is scheduled to take effect July 15.

It targets immigrants who have recently entered the U.S. without permission and have demonstrated to an immigration officer that they have a credible fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home country.

For the past 50 years, the government has given such asylum seekers bond hearings before immigration judges where they can argue that they should be released because they are not flight risks and pose no threat to the public, according to court documents filed by the ACLU, American Immigration Council and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

That gives the asylum seekers an opportunity to reunite with relatives in the U.S. and to find lawyers to handle their asylum claims, making them more likely to succeed.

The new policy would end that practice, keeping between 15,000 and 40,000 immigrants in custody for six months or more without requiring the government to show that their detentions are justified, in violation of their due process rights, the groups argued. Typically, close to half of asylum seekers who are granted bond hearings are released from custody.

"Defendants' new policy will require the imprisonment of thousands of individuals who represent no flight risk or danger to the community," Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, told U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman. "Every single one of them is facing drastic harm if they don't have the opportunity to present themselves for a bond hearing."

The plaintiffs want the judge to block the new policy from taking effect while they challenge its legality. Pechman said she intends to rule next week

President Donald Trump has said he is determined to end the "catch and release" of migrants at the border. He has also called the asylum system broken, saying that some take advantage of it with frivolous claims.

The lawsuit, a nationwide class action, began as a challenge to the separation of family members at the border under Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy. Its legal claims have morphed as the government's policies have shifted.

The Justice Department has focused many of its arguments on procedural issues, insisting that the class-wide protection the immigrant rights groups seek is not available under federal immigration law.

The government also says the named plaintiffs, including women from Honduras and El Salvador who were separated from their children at the border, lack standing to challenge the new policy because they were all given bond hearings and released from custody.

"None of the named plaintiffs have shown any harm here," Justice Department attorney Lauren Bingham told the judge.

The Justice Department also argued that the new policy is a legitimate interpretation of a federal law that says if immigration officers determine immigrants have a credible fear of persecution, they "shall be detained for further consideration of the application for asylum."

That language does not require asylum seekers to be detained for the entirety of their case, but even if it did, that would violate the Supreme Court precedent that says the government cannot detain someone without reason, the immigrant rights advocates said.

Pechman issued an injunction in April ordering the government to give migrants with bona fide asylum claims the opportunity to seek bail within seven days of a request. Barr announced the DOJ's new policy 11 days later.

Under the policy, detained asylum seekers would still have another avenue for release: a request to an immigration officer for parole. The immigrant rights groups say such requests are rarely granted under the Trump administration and are not a substitute for bond hearings before independent fact-finders.

Matt Adams, Legal Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, speaks with media members following a hearing on asylum seekers at the U.S. Courthouse Friday, June 28, 2019, in Seattle. A federal judge heard a challenge to a new Trump administration policy, scheduled to take effect next month, that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of allowing them to be released on bond. It targets immigrants who have recently entered the U.S. without permission and have demonstrated a credible fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home country. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
FILE - This July 10, 2018 file photo shows a sign that reads
FILE - This June 21, 2017, file photo shows a women's area at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., during a media tour of the facility. Immigrant rights activists on Friday, June 28, 2019, asked a U.S. judge to block a new Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of giving them a chance to be released on bond.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
FILE - In this April 10, 2019, file photo, U.S. Attorney General William Barr reacts as he appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request in Washington. Immigrant rights activists on Friday, June 28, 2019, asked a U.S. judge to block a new Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of giving them a chance to be released on bond.  Barr announced the policy in April as part of the administration's efforts to deter a surge of migrants at the Mexico border, and it is scheduled to take effect July 15. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2018, file photo, Honduran asylum seekers are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents after the group crossed the U.S. border wall into San Diego, Calif., in this view from Tijuana, Mexico. Immigrant rights activists on Friday, June 28, 2019, asked a U.S. judge to block a new Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of giving them a chance to be released on bond.   (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2014, file photo, detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a detention center for immigrant families, in Karnes City, Texas. Immigrant rights activists on Friday, June 28, 2019, asked a U.S. judge to block a new Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of giving them a chance to be released on bond.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2018, file photo, Honduran asylum seekers are taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents after the group crossed the U.S. border wall into San Diego, Calif., seen from Tijuana, Mexico. Immigrant rights activists on Friday, June 28, 2019, asked a U.S. judge to block a new Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, instead of giving them a chance to be released on bond.  (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)