Presidents conduct the country’s immigration system with much discretion. That does not include rewriting the law, which is what President Trump essentially proposes through new restrictions on migrants seeking asylum. A federal district judge held to that thinking, and an appeals court panel echoed the point in denying a White House request to stay the lower court ruling.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a two-sentence order, continued the string of judicial rejections. That the vote was 5-4, Chief Justice John Roberts joining justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, was somewhat surprising given the clarity of the law.

What does the president propose? He has been attempting to discourage asylum applications by making the process more burdensome, suggesting that asylum has become a loophole of sorts for people to enter the country unlawfully. In November, he declared that only migrants who arrive here legally or apply at an official port of entry would be eligible for asylum.

The president argues the step is necessary in view of a surge of migrants at the border. Recall the “caravan” he made a centerpiece of the fall campaign. The White House cites federal law allowing the president to deny entry to “any class of aliens” whose arrival “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

For starters, the president has yet to show how the country would be better off denying legitimate requests for asylum. Which gets to something worth stressing: Asylum-seekers face a rigorous process. They must establish a “credible fear” of persecution or torture in their home country. Many fail to do so, the process designed to identify and block bad actors.

According to one analysis, the rate of asylum grants has ranged from 15 percent to 44 percent the past decade.

Writing for the federal appeals court covering much of the southwestern portion of the country, Judge Jay Bybee noted the keen awareness of immigration matters among his colleagues. The appointee of George W. Bush added: “As much as we might by tempted to revise the law as we think wise, revision of the laws is left with the branch that enacted the laws in the first place — Congress.”

What has Congress said? The Refugee Act of 1980 embraces “the historic policy of the United States to respond to the urgent needs of persons subject to persecution in their homelands.” The law further makes plain that people may apply for asylum if they are “physically present” or arrive here “whether or not at a designated port of arrival … irrespective of [their] status.”

The law is generous, in part, because of hard lessons learned, especially during World War II, about people seeking to flee danger. It is the prism through which to view those leaving Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador out of fear for their safety and even their lives. The law reflects the 1967 U.N. Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which the United States has joined.

All of this permits President Trump no room for the restrictions on asylum-seekers he put forward last month. If he sees the numbers increasing, then he can dispatch more resources to process requests and relieve the backlog. What long has been evident in law and spirit is this country’s commitment to ensure the stories of asylum-seekers are heard.