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Judge Orders Rollback of Policy Expediting Removal for Asylum-Seekers

judge-1587300_640-300x225A U.S. District Court Judge shot down the Trump administration’s plan to implement a system that would speed up its efforts to deport immigrants seeking asylum, a ruling the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lauded.

In his 107-page ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan explained that it was unlawful for the United States government to deport foreign nationals coming to the border to seek asylum without first assessing their asylum claims and determining whether they truly face a credible fear of persecution in their home country.

Sullivan pointed out that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) mandates the process of thoroughly evaluating the legitimacy of asylum claims, thus, the government lacks the legal basis for banning certain types of asylum claims. This, he stressed, emphasizes the authority of Congress in determining the standard for expedited removal and the fact that immigration policies should not bow to the whims of the executive.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy change in June. As a result, the Justice Department had since denied asylum to foreign nationals claiming to escape gang-related violence or gender-based sexual violence in their home countries.

Managing attorney of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, Jennifer Chang Newell, celebrated the ruling and called it “a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers.” She also pointed out that the policy change was all part of the government’s efforts to do away with asylum protections, which she called “unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives.”

Justice Department spokesman Steven Stafford disagreed, saying that Sessions’ policy change only enforces existing laws. He points out that existing laws only provide that asylum be given to individuals facing a legitimate fear of persecution that’s based on their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in specific cultural or social group.

Sullivan, however, argued that Sessions’ move to whittle down the criteria for acceptable asylum claims, barring entry to victims of gang violence and domestic violence, does not match the threshold screening standard established by Congress. He pointed out that credible fear determinations “must be resolved based on the particular facts and circumstances of each case” and that “an alien’s removal may not be expedited if there is a ‘significant possibility’ that the alien could establish eligibility for asylum.”

The plaintiffs of the case were mothers who came to the US to escape domestic and gang violence with their children.

If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. asylum policy, or have a loved one needing asylum assistance, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.