Advocates Challenge the Application of ‘Unsafe’ Third Country Rule to Asylum Seekers Turned Back at Ports of Entry
December 6, 2019, San Diego – Immigrant rights attorneys filed an emergency motion today to block the government from applying another Trump administration rule to asylum seekers forced by a government policy known as “metering” to wait in Mexico to access the U.S. asylum process. The rule — the latest of the administration’s numerous attempts to eviscerate America’s asylum system — sends asylum seekers to third countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, to seek protection and would deny those previously subject to the government’s metering policy the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.
“We are asking for immediate relief on behalf of thousands of vulnerable individuals who waited in Mexico as instructed by the U.S. government for months in dangerous conditions only to now be threatened with being sent to Guatemala or other ill-equipped Central American countries,” said Erika Pinheiro, Al Otro Lado’s litigation and policy director. “Yet again, this administration’s cruel, haphazard, and illegal policies, aimed at dismantling the asylum system as we know it, are putting lives at risk.”
The filing seeks a temporary restraining order barring application of the rule — which applies so-called “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” with the designated Central American countries — to those asylum seekers who would not have been subject to the rule but for metering, until a final determination is made about the legality of the metering policy.
The request filed today is in the ongoing case, Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, 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 forces asylum seekers to wait for indeterminate periods in Mexico in order to seek asylum in the United States. The use of turnbacks to drastically limit the inspection and processing of asylum seekers was one of the earliest in the series of policies and practices the administration has implemented to deter asylum seekers at the southern border.
“Like the Trump administration’s previous efforts to target asylum seekers, this latest ‘bait and switch’ jeopardizes the lives of men, women, and children who have fled persecution and violence and endured perilous journeys to seek refuge in the United States,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “Unless it is blocked, thousands of desperate asylum seekers who followed the ‘rules’ by waiting in Mexico to be allowed to seek asylum in the United States will never have an opportunity to have their cases heard and instead will be sent to countries that are clearly incapable of providing protection or even basic safety.”
The rule, which was published on November 19, 2019, came the same day the plaintiffs in Al Otro Lado v. Wolf obtained a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration’s July 16, 2019, asylum ban from being applied to the thousands of metered asylum seekers who had been unlawfully prevented from accessing the U.S. asylum process before that ban was implemented.
“The Trump administration appears to be relentless in its quest to end asylum and back out of our country’s commitment to this most fundamental human rights principle. Now, as ever, we need the courts and the public to continue to resist this illegality and cruelty. The government cannot be permitted to exploit yet another Trump policy — the new rule — 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 Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, and American Immigration Council filed the lawsuit, Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, 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.
Today’s filing can be viewed here.
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