Decision Preserves Important Protection for Thousands of Asylum Seekers Previously Turned Back at Ports of Entry
March 5, 2020, San Francisco – A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel today blocked the Trump administration’s asylum transit ban from being applied to thousands of asylum seekers who were unlawfully prevented from accessing the U.S. asylum process before the ban was implemented.
The decision lifts a prior administrative stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction. That injunction prohibits the government from applying the asylum ban to those who had been illegally metered before the ban went into effect. The Ninth Circuit found that the government failed to demonstrate that it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were to go into effect while the Ninth Circuit reviews the merits. The court also found that the government is unlikely to succeed in that appeal—that is, it is unlikely to demonstrate it had no duty to grant access to the asylum process to individuals metered prior to the implementation of the asylum ban.
The case is Al Otro Lado v. Wolf, a class action lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Center for Constitutional Rights, American Immigration Council, and Mayer Brown LLP on behalf of individual asylum seekers and the legal services organization Al Otro Lado (AOL).
“Today’s order will protect the lives of asylum seekers who were forced to endure extreme hardship while waiting in dangerous border cities for months for their chance to seek asylum in the United States,” said Erika Pinheiro, AOL Director of Litigation and Policy. “These asylum seekers have a deep commitment to following our laws in seeking protection, and we are relieved to see that their decision to follow our government’s instructions to wait in Mexico will not prejudice their chances for relief.”
Added Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, “The decision is an important one for the thousands of asylum seekers who followed the ‘rules’—rules we contend are illegal—and waited their turn, only to be told they were out of luck once the transit rule was announced. These individuals, many of whom waited for months to apply for asylum, deserve an opportunity to have the merits of their asylum claims heard.”
The administration’s asylum transit ban requires asylum seekers to have been previously denied protection in a country they traveled through en route to the United States in order to be eligible for asylum here. After the ban went into nationwide effect in September, the rights groups filed a motion to protect the thousands of asylum seekers who would have crossed into the United States before the ban’s effective date of July 16, 2019, but for the government’s illegal metering policy that forced them to wait in Mexico before being inspected and processed at ports of entry.
“Today’s ruling is another important limitation on the Trump administration’s attack on asylum seekers and the asylum system, said Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “It recognizes that courts can and should preserve this country’s commitment to international human rights principles. We hope the court’s decision will protect the lives and safety of thousands of vulnerable individuals fleeing dangerous conditions at home.”
The Ninth Circuit’s decision today prevents the application of the asylum ban to categorically deny asylum to those vulnerable asylum seekers who should have been processed months ago until the court rules on the government’s appeal of the district court’s order. The district court’s order applies to a provisional class that the court certified as part of its decision.
Today’s ruling can be viewed HERE.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, American Immigration Council, and Mayer Brown LLP 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.
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, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., 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 and follow us on social media: Southern Poverty Law Center on Facebook and @splcenter on Twitter.
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.