New Asylum Ban Should Not Apply to Those Turned Back at Ports of Entry
September 26, 2019, San Diego – Today, immigrant rights attorneys moved to block the Trump administration’s Asylum Ban from affecting tens of thousands of migrants who have already attempted to access the U.S. asylum process before the ban was implemented. With limited exceptions, the Asylum Ban prohibits anyone who traveled through a third country and did not seek protection there from obtaining asylum here. The request filed today is in the ongoing case challenging the Trump administration’s policy of turning back asylum seekers at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border, including the “metering” policy that requires asylum seekers to get on endless lists in order to seek asylum in the U.S. The drastic reduction in processing asylum seekers by turning them back to wait was one of the earliest in the series of policies and practices the administration has implemented in an effort to deter asylum seekers at the Southern Border.
Said Erika Pinheiro, Al Otro Lado’s Litigation and Policy Director, “We filed the class action lawsuit Al Otro Lado v. Nielsen two years ago to challenge the Trump administration’s policy of turning away asylum seekers either through tactics of fraud and coercion or, most recently, by placing vulnerable individuals on endless waitlists where they remain in dangerous conditions.” Nicole Ramos, Border Rights Project Director for Al Otro Lado, adds, “We are seeking emergency relief from the court to protect those individuals who would have avoided the brutality of the Asylum Ban but for the government’s illegal turnback policy. Thousands of vulnerable lives are at stake, and our work to protect them will not be deterred by this latest attack on asylum seekers.”
“The government cannot be permitted to exploit one illegal Trump policy – the Asylum Ban – to attempt to extinguish our clients’ challenge to the prior illegal policy – the Turnback Policy,” said Baher Azmy, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The court can ensure that the government be made to answer for the illegality of the Turnback Policy and that those individuals who had rightful claims of asylum are not denied access to the asylum process through the multiplicity of the Trump administration’s illegality.”
The injunction requested today would remain in place until a final determination is made about the legality of the Turnback Policy and prevent the application of the Asylum Ban to categorically deny asylum to those vulnerable asylum seekers who should have been processed months ago.
“The government has engaged in a cruel bait and switch in its ongoing war against asylum seekers,” according to Melissa Crow, Senior Supervising Attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “Before the Asylum Ban was issued, the official message from the U.S. government was that asylum seekers should enter the United States ‘the right way,’ by going to a port of entry on the Southern Border, instead of crossing without authorization through the desert or across the river. Now those who followed the rules may never have an opportunity to have their asylum claims decided on the merits.”
While asylum seekers are coming to the Southern Border from many nations, thousands of Central Americans are fleeing their home countries and seeking asylum due to levels of violence in the region not seen since the civil wars in the 1970s and 80s. Human rights advocates note that U.S. foreign policy is fueling the violence and instability that is causing people to flee. Those fleeing undertake dangerous journeys to the U.S., frequently facing violence from gangs and security forces along the way.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, and American Immigration Council filed the lawsuit, Al Otro Lado v. McAleenan, No. 3:17-cv-02366 (S.D. Cal.), in July 2017 on behalf of individual asylum seekers and Al Otro Lado, an immigration legal services provider with offices in Mexico and California.
For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page, American Immigration Council and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Al Otro Lado provides cross-border legal services to deportees, refugees, and families separated by unjust immigration laws. With the help of our nonprofit partners and almost 1,000 volunteers, we connect our clients with free legal, medical, mental health, and other social services they need to heal and thrive. Al Otro Lado employs impact litigation and policy advocacy to promote systemic changes that protect immigrants’ rights.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.
The American Immigration Council works to strengthen America by shaping how America thinks about and acts towards immigrants and immigration and by working toward a more fair and just immigration system that opens its doors to those in need of protection and unleashes the energy and skills that immigrants bring. The Council brings together problem solvers and employs four coordinated approaches to advance change—litigation, research, legislative and administrative advocacy, and communications. Follow the latest Council news and information on ImmigrationImpact.com and Twitter @immcouncil.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.