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November 21, 2018

Asylum Seekers File Challenge to Trump’s Asylum Ban

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First and the National Immigrant Justice Center filed a challenge seeking permanent relief from the Trump Administration’s asylum ban issued earlier this month. The plaintiffs in O.A. v. Trump are six asylum seekers, including three children, who were illegally barred from seeking asylum because they entered the United States outside of an official border point. The litigation filed yesterday follows a suit in the U.S. District Court of San Francisco, in which a temporary restraining order was issued Monday.

O.A. v. Trump challenges the regulations and presidential proclamation through which the Trump Administration issued its asylum ban. The plaintiffs, represented by Human Rights First, National Immigrant Justice Center, and Williams & Connolly LLP, argue that the administration’s asylum ban violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, in which Congress established that an asylum seeker has the right to have her claim evaluated regardless of how or where she entered the United States, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The lawsuit also claims that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker does not have authority to issue the regulation, as he has not been confirmed by the Senate.

“The United States was built as a haven for the persecuted. Today’s refugees at our southern border—including Human Rights First’s clients—are no different than those who have landed on our shores for generations in search of a safe and dignified life for themselves and their families. By blocking these brave individuals from seeking asylum, the administration acted illegally and turned its back on our nation’s ideals. We are committed to fighting for our clients and the principle that the Trump Administration is not above the law,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Michael Breen. 

“The law is clear, and has been for decades: people and families fleeing persecution and violence have the right, under U.S. law, to arrive anywhere at our border and request asylum, to tell their stories to a judge, and to have their claims fully and fairly considered,” said National Immigrant Justice Center Associate Director of Litigation Keren Zwick. “As long as the United States remains a democracy, our laws cannot be rewritten by presidential proclamation. We are hopeful the San Francisco court’s decision ultimately means all asylum seekers are protected from the administration’s politically motivated actions. We are moving ahead in support of our clients, who came to the border seeking protection and were effectively told that the United States was closed for business.”

The plaintiffs in O.A. v. Trump  either entered the United States outside an official border entry point after being turned away or forced to wait in unsafe conditions near inspection points, or because they did not realize that going to a port of entry was an option. The lead plaintiff, O.A., is here with his four-year-old daughter. They fled Honduras after O.A. tried to help the police investigate the murder of his brother and was then targeted himself—with death threats and an attempt to kill him by burning down his house—for participating in that investigation.

The case, O.A. v. Trump, was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The filing can be found here.

For more information or to speak with Breen contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.