WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of the District of Columbia, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and National Immigrant Justice Center today sued the Biden administration over its sweeping asylum ban on behalf of individual asylum seekers, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, and Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
The lawsuit focuses on changes to a rapid deportation process that dramatically alter the screening interview process for asylum seekers and wrongfully return many back to persecution and grave danger.
This case complements an ongoing challenge to the Biden asylum ban litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Northern California, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and National Immigrant Justice Center.
Today’s suit homes in on the ban’s changes to the expedited removal process, which flout existing legal mandates. Congress took critical steps to ensure that rapid deportations would not wrongfully return people to potential persecution. In particular, Congress established the “credible fear interview” to ensure that people with potentially meritorious claims for asylum would be protected from wrongful removal and allowed to fully develop and present their asylum claims.
The lawsuit charges that the new ban’s procedures illegally upend this system by requiring asylum seekers to prove — during the initial interview, under a much higher standard than Congress mandated — that the ban doesn’t apply to them.
In addition, the Biden administration has made numerous other harmful changes to the expedited removal process, further undermining protections for noncitizens and increasing the risk they will be removed to persecution and torture.
“Asylum seekers cannot be pushed out of the country without a fair chance to make their claims for protection before a judge. Not only are these new policies cruel, they are illegal under our asylum laws,” said Katrina Eiland, managing attorney of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
“The Biden administration’s policies force people fleeing persecution to run a gauntlet of illegal obstacles designed to prevent them from accessing protection,” said Melissa Crow, director of litigation at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. “These policies make a mockery of our asylum laws and imperil the lives of vulnerable families and adults seeking safety.”
“The Biden administration’s asylum rule blocks significant numbers of migrants from access to the U.S. asylum system and ignores long-standing laws, established by Congress, about what they must prove in order to have an opportunity to apply for protection,” said Keren Zwick, director of litigation at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Multiple plaintiffs are now back in Mexico, and others have already been returned to their home countries. All of the plaintiffs fear for their lives, and the U.S. government has abandoned its legal obligations to protect refugees. Not only are the plaintiffs’ lives at stake, but so is the fate of U.S. asylum laws that have been in place for decades.”
“The previous administration tried to build a physical wall at the border, and now the current administration is trying to build a procedural wall at the border. Both are unlawful,” said Arthur Spitzer, senior counsel of the ACLU of the District of Columbia.
This latest lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.