Federal Court grants class certification in case challenging Trump administration turnback immigration policy
August 6, 2020, San Diego – A federal judge has granted class certification in Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s policy of turning back asylum seekers at ports of entry. The ruling provides that the challenge to the Turnback Policy will continue on behalf of all asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border who were or will be prevented from accessing the asylum process at ports of entry as a result of the government’s Turnback Policy.
“This ruling is a huge victory in a case that wouldn't have been necessary had the government not set out to punish asylum seekers for following the government’s own rules,” said Erika Pinheiro, Al Otro Lado’s Litigation and Policy Director. “And while today’s ruling is an important win for asylum seekers, it is just one step in the effort to defeat the Trump administration’s war on asylum.”
“This is an incredibly important ruling for the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who would otherwise be denied access to the asylum process,” said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC’s) Immigrant Justice Project. “Since the earliest days of this administration, DHS has sought to systematically dismantle our asylum system. This policy, which has turned back countless men, women and children after they presented themselves at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border was one of the first implemented as part of this cruel campaign targeting asylum seekers.”
“In granting class certification, the district court correctly identified the truly expansive reach of the metering policy. Its effects are felt far beyond a singular port of entry but along the entire southern border, needlessly forcing thousands of asylum seekers to make harrowing decisions about how to keep themselves and their loved ones safe during times of utter vulnerability,” said Angelo Guisado, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“Today’s ruling is another meaningful step in holding DHS and CBP accountable for implementing a Turnback Policy that flagrantly violates the Immigration and Nationality Act. We look forward to moving to the merits of the litigation as soon as possible,” said Stephen Medlock, a partner at Mayer Brown LLP.
“Class certification is a pivotal step in our challenge to the Trump administration’s policy of turning back asylum seekers at our southern border. This decision recognizes that the brave individual asylum seekers who helped bring this lawsuit represent a multitude of similarly-impacted individuals who were turned away at the border by government officials and have languished in Mexico while awaiting a fair chance to seek protection,” said Caroline Walters, staff attorney at the American Immigration Council.
The Turnback Policy includes a variety of tactics used to reject asylum seekers from ports of entry, including “metering,” which has forced many asylum seekers to get on waitlists in Mexico and wait months on end even to be processed.
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 limit access to the U.S. asylum process and deter asylum seekers from coming to the United States. Many people who are turned back from a port of entry are ultimately deprived of any access to the asylum process, while others are forced to wait in Mexico for indeterminate periods of time.
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.