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Court Rules Trump’s Policies Denying Asylum Protections to People Fleeing Domestic and Gang Violence Are Illegal


Court Rules Trump’s Policies Denying Asylum Protections to People Fleeing Domestic and Gang Violence Are Illegal

On December 19, 2018, a federal court in Washington, D.C. struck down Trump administration policies that sought to eviscerate asylum protections for immigrants fleeing domestic violence and gang brutality.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies challenged the administration’s new “expedited removal” policies when they were put forth by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year. The policies applied to recently arrived immigrants who express fear of returning to their home countries while in summary removal proceedings under INA Section 235.

Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., held that the policies, which instructed asylum officers to “generally” deny such domestic violence and gang violence-related claims, violate immigration laws. The court explained that “there is no legal basis for an effective categorical ban” on such claims and granted the request for a permanent injunction against the policies.

Although the ruling does not apply to normal removal proceedings under INA Section 240 (because that is outside the scope of this lawsuit), it is a huge step in the right direction. This will start to restore the important protections given to those seeking asylum and to comply with the United States’ international treaty obligations pursuant to the U.N.  Refugee Convention and Protocol, of which the United States is a signatory, and which is legally binding on all parties who signed.

“This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration’s all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers. The government’s attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country’s longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives,” said Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case.

The plaintiffs include women who have endured extensive persecution in the form of sexual and physical violence. Fearing they would be killed, along with their young children, they sought refuge in the U.S. But under the new policies, even though government officials found the accounts credible, they concluded the women did not have a “credible fear of persecution” and ordered them to be sent back to the countries where they face grave harm. The lawsuit is Grace v. Whitaker. Co-counsel are the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

If you are scared to return to your country please call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys. The Joseph & Hall P.C. has experience in all areas related to asylum, including withholding of removal, relief under the Convention Against Torture, affirmative, and defensive cases.

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