March 11, 2021
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Federal Court Blocks Draconian Immigration Rule Defended by Biden Administration
San Francisco, CA (March 11, 2021) — A federal district court ruled yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice must temporarily suspend enforcement of a rule preventing immigration courts from hearing the valid claims of people facing deportation. The ruling was issued in a lawsuit filed by organizations serving immigrants, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Tahirih Justice Center, and RAICES. The plaintiffs are represented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Sidley Austin LLP and Lakin & Wille LLP.
On its way out the door, the previous administration made a series of attacks on immigrants, doing its best to deny justice to the families whose lives were upended over the last four years. Among those, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) rushed through a new rule to drastically limit the ability of immigrants facing deportation to fight their cases, tearing families and communities apart. The Biden administration defended the rule in court.
“Yesterday’s ruling is a rebuke of the federal government’s abuse of power to accelerate deportations,” said Jenny Zhao, litigation staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “But we need more than a pause on one piece of the last administration’s inhumane immigration policy. The Biden administration should put a stop to immigration detention and deportation, including of our incarcerated community members.”
The rule at issue severely restricts the ability for people with old deportation orders to reopen their cases—even if their rights were violated during their initial proceedings or they have since become entitled to legal status. The rule also fast-tracks the deportation of survivors of violence who are seeking humanitarian relief, and makes it even harder for legal service providers to represent immigrants in removal proceedings by creating often insurmountable barriers like unreasonable deadlines to file appeal briefs. In effect since January 15, the rule has already had a devastating effect, particularly on detained immigrants, who are already overwhelmingly unrepresented.
Kenia Larios is an asylum seeker who was formerly detained in Bakersfield, California. She is represented by Centro Legal de la Raza, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “I am someone who, from detention, asked for asylum and had a lawyer. I lost my case at first, and I had to bring an appeal, and I had to have a lawyer to do it, and through that, I got protection. If these rules had existed then, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said Larios. “So I am relieved that the Court stopped this rule, but ask that the Biden administration do more to support us immigrants: that he doesn’t cut off the opportunity for us to receive asylum and be in this country safely; that he stops putting immigrants in detention; and that he doesn’t separate families. I still have faith in him that he will do good things, and that he will recognize and give us opportunities to be residents, and to count.”
Judah Lakin of Lakin & Wille LLP said, “We are pleased by the Court’s order, as it ensures that non-citizens will continue to have access to basic procedural protections before the immigration courts. We are hopeful that the administration will come to its senses, as it did in the Public Charge context, and cease defending this Trump-era rule. In the meantime, we will continue to push for real change that ensures all of our neighbors, community members, and friends have viable pathways to lawful status and that they are no longer demonized and criminalized.”
The following are statements from the plaintiff organizations in this case:
Priya Patel, Senior Attorney, Centro Legal de la Raza:
“This ruling is a small step forward on the path to stopping our government from criminalizing, caging, and deporting people away from their families and community. We urge the Biden administration to do more and look forward to seeing more positive changes for our country.”
Erin Quinn, Senior Staff Attorney, Immigrant Legal Resource Center:
“The court’s ruling recognizes that immigrants and their families are entitled to a just system. The ruling blocks the extremely unfair rule that created additional hurdles in a system wrought with obstacles against immigrants and their families seeking a fair opportunity to present their case. We urge the federal government to take additional steps to dismantle Trump administration policies that deny immigrants their right to due process and an opportunity to be heard in court.”
Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation, RAICES:
“RAICES and the communities we represent welcome the court’s decision to enjoin this barbaric rule imposed by the Trump administration—and defended by the Biden administration. The rule severely limits non-citizens’ ability to be represented by counsel, curtails the opportunity for judicial review and strips immigration courts of the needed processes to ensure procedural fairness. We demand that the Biden administration stop defending the rule and begin safeguarding the rights of non-citizens to a fair and just adjudication of their cases.”
Richard Caldarone, Litigation Counsel, Tahirih Justice Center:
“We applaud the decision from Judge Illston, which moves us in the right direction of bringing due process to survivors of gender-based violence seeking safety. These regulations transformed the Board of Immigration Appeals into a weapon designed to return survivors to violence, persecution, and torture. We must have a permanent block to the rule so that immigrant survivors can meaningfully pursue their right to seek refuge in the United States.”