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March 15, 2018

Taking The Fight for Asylum Seekers to Court

This year the Trump Administration has engaged in an unprecedented assault on asylum seekers and refugees. From the refugee ban to fear-mongering over MS-13, turning back asylum seekers at our border and rescinding protections for Americans brought to this country as children, President Trump has pursued an agenda written by hard-line immigration extremists in his White House and in Congress.

Today, we’re taking the fight for asylum seekers to court.

Human Rights First, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, and Covington & Burling filed a class action lawsuit in support of asylum seekers who languish in prisons without any chance of parole. 

Here’s the background: in 2010, under the Obama Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was directed to parole asylum seekers who can verify their identity, establish that they are not a flight risk, and pose no known public safety threat. Though this policy is still on the books, ICE is effectively ignoring its own policy, denying parole to 96 percent of asylum seekers in Los Angeles, El Paso, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Newark—districts where our plaintiffs are located.

That’s why we’re suing the Trump Administration. We’ve filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to challenge ICE’s widespread denial of parole for arriving asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers are individuals who have fled violence and persecution in their home countries and are now legally seeking protection in the United States. The asylum system has been a cornerstone of our national identity for centuries, and it is now under threat.

When the administration detains asylum seekers without opportunity for parole, they are effectively re-traumatizing individuals who have gone through horrific violence and persecution most of us cannot imagine. The U.S. government is essentially taking individuals who have been tortured, beaten, suffered gang and gender-based violence, and putting them in prison, often for no reason other than deterring future victims from seeking a better life here.

We also know that detention has enormous, and long-lasting effects on mental and physical well-being. And those in detention have a much more difficult time finding access to counsel, which is crucial in order to win an asylum claim. Detention, for many, can be a matter of life and death.

And so Human Rights First, the ACLU, and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies are standing up to the administration’s assault on asylum seekers so that no one who should be released on parole is left languishing in a prison. 

We’re standing up for people like Abelardo, who fled Cuba after refusing to attend a memorial for Fidel Castro. And we’re standing up to make sure that people like Alexi, an 18-year-old who was beaten, harassed, and threatened and held at gunpoint for being openly gay in Honduras, are not left in prison simply for trying to live in safety in the United States.