This lawsuit was filed in August 2014, in the context of the large numbers of Central American women with children who entered the United States from Mexico without visas that summer. After they entered the United States seeking refuge, they were arrested and detained by the federal government at a remote facility in Artesia, New Mexico. The lawsuit challenged policies that denied them a meaningful opportunity to present their asylum claims, applied an erroneous legal standard to those claims, prejudged their cases, and resulted in expedited orders of removal that would have returned them to countries where they faced extreme danger. Asylum officers and immigration judges rushed them to answer questions regarding the violence, death threats, and sexual abuse they feared, posed in complicated legal terminology—and all while their children were listening.
Soon after the case was filed, the Department of Homeland Security sent a team of senior officials to Artesia. In September, the Deputy Secretary recognized that “quite frankly, the advocacy community has identified instances where we have not provided as we should for the care and needs of those families.”
The refugees were eventually able to secure representation by volunteer attorneys who travelled long distances and dedicated hundreds of hours of pro bono work to assist them. In each of the plaintiffs' cases, the government ultimately vacated the expedited removal order and placed the plaintiff in regular removal proceedings, essentially acknowledging that she had a credible fear of persecution and should not have been subjected to expedited removal.
Less than four months after the case was filed, the Artesia detention facility was closed, and in January 2015 we filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.