News from the Courts

Posted on: December 2nd, 2019
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Federal Court Blocks Trump’s Asylum Limits for Migrants Who Arrived at Border Before July 16th

On November 19th, Judge Cynthia Bashant of the Southern District of California ruled that Trump’s asylum limits are not applicable to migrants who arrived at the United States’ border with Mexico before July 16th.

In July, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the controversial asylum limits, prohibiting migrants from seeking asylum who either resided or “transited en route” in a third country. This was in response to the migrant caravans, which were large groups fleeing from Central American countries, primarily Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, to travel through Mexico and seek asylum in the United States. While some of the migrants who arrived before this July ruling turned themselves into  U.S. Border Patrol and claimed asylum, many continued to wait in Mexico for processing in Mexico, due to the administration’s “metering” policy which limited the number of individuals capable of being processed in a given day.

In her ruling, Bashant asserted that these migrants were not subject to the July rule, since they arrived in Mexico before its implementation. Additionally, Bashant addressed the metering policy, stating if it were not for the policy, “these asylum-seekers would have entered the United States and started the asylum process without delay.” Since these migrants adhered to the initial requirements the government instructed, the government argues that they failed to enter, attempt to enter, or arrive in the United States before the mid-July asylum-limit ruling, they are subject to that rule. “That situation, at its core, is quintessentially inequitable,” argued Bashant.

For more information, view Judge Cynthia Bashant’s ruling, or CNN’s full article.

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Refugee Resettlement Agencies Sue Trump Over Executive Order Granting Authority to State and Local Officials

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) has teamed with two other refugee resettlement agencies to file a lawsuit against Donald Trump regarding his recent executive order which empowered state and local officials with the authority to block refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions. Along with Church World Service (CWS), and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) HIAS is suing the administration because of its attempt to enforce its discriminatory refugee ban on a local level.

The lawsuit alleges the order to be just the latest attempt by the Trump administration to undermine the nearly 40-year-old federal resettlement infrastructure and prevent refugees, some of whom have been waiting for years after adhering to every requirement with the hope reuniting with their families, from entering the United States.

The executive order would mandate that resettlement agencies such as HIAS, CWS, and LIRS obtain written consent from all localities and states in which they are seeking to resettle refugees. If those agencies are unable to acquire that written consent, that could prevent resettlement agencies from maintaining their local affiliate offices, which are responsible for providing essential services to refugees already present in those communities.

The lawsuit claims the executive order violates federal law, which holds that federal agencies are responsible for making decisions pertaining to the placement of refugees within the country according to an extensive list of factors. There is no provision for state and/or local governments to veto these decisions.

For more information, view the lawsuit.

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Lawsuit Filed Against DHS Requests Information Regarding Department’s Rapid DNA Technology

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to get answers to questions pertaining to the new technology DHS uses at the border to collect DNA from migrant families. The lawsuit questions the manner in which DHS implemented its Rapid DNA technology, including the total number of individuals who have had their DNA collected, the accuracy of DNA matches, and the precise gene processing used to identify the relationship between parents and children. Rapid DNA can allegedly process DNA samples in 90 minutes or less, prompting law enforcement agencies to adopt the technology.

DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implemented a pilot program in May of this year, with the purpose of verifying the parent-child relationships of migrant families at the U.S./Mexico border. One month later, that pilot program became an official part of DHS policy, being instituted at seven different locations. The rapid widespread implementation of the program coupled with many of Trump’s prominent immigration advocates having been identified as or associated with white nationalists have intensified concerns of misuse of this DNA technology. Furthermore, the accuracy of this technology has come under scrutiny. In addition to outside questions, even internally, DHS has expressed trepidation regarding the accuracy of its technology, stating internally that, “prototype equipment may not provide totally reliable results,” and therefore would be unable to predict the accuracy of non-match findings, “since the error rate for the machines remains unknown.”

In addition to questions surrounding the accuracy of the data collection, there are also questions surrounding the legality of the manner in which the tests are administered. Though DHS claims all DNA tests are administered only after a consent form has been singed, making them, “voluntary.” The EEF claims, however, that these consent forms include language which states that opting out of the DNA testing could result in negative consequences for the immigrant families the government detains and threatens to separate. “This practice is coercive and does not take into account families with children not biologically connected to parents, like adopted children and stepchildren,” as stated by the EEF.

Moving forward, the Department of Justice aims to collect DNA samples from close to 750,000 immigrant detainees on an annual basis.

For more information, view the full article from Vice.

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Researchers’ Findings Confirm Immigration Judges’ Assertion that Millions of Records Have Gone Missing

Researchers at Syracuse University have discovered, “gross irregularities” in millions of records of immigration court proceedings released by the Trump administration. The findings corroborate the experiences of immigration judges, as purported by the union representing Justice Department judges who handle immigration cases. According to the union, these records were either misrepresented, have gone missing, or were intentionally deleted. Ashley Tabbador, the president of the union, released a statement which identified the incongruities faced by the judges, “who find time and time again that DOJ’s recent data does not match the reality we see in our courtrooms.”

For more information, view the full article from Bloomberg.

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