Washington, D.C. — A federal court judge has temporarily blocked a Trump rule that would create insurmountable obstacles for people applying for asylum in the United States. The rule was scheduled to take effect tomorrow, January 15, 2021.
Senior Judge Reggie B. Walton of the District Court for the District of Columbia granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction halting the implementation of the Trump administration’s final rules regarding procedures for individuals who apply asylum and withholding of removal. The lawsuit was filed by four legal service organizations against the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the agency which oversees the U.S. immigration court system. Plaintiffs in the case are the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. Jones Day is providing pro bono counsel in the case, NIJC v. EOIR, which was filed on January 8.
“We are relieved that Judge Walton saw the potential permanent harm that this rule would have caused to people seeking safety and protection in the United States, and has halted these unlawful new procedures from taking effect tomorrow,” said NIJC Director of Litigation Keren Zwick, co-counsel in the case. “This is an important step toward turning back the harm this administration has done to nearly every aspect of the immigration system.”
Among the new barriers the rule would have created in the immigration process are:
- reducing the existing one-year deadline to only 15 days for people to submit asylum applications after their first hearings
- allowing the U.S. government to reject an asylum application if any questions on the form are left blank or the form is not accompanied by a proof of payment of a new $50 application fee
- permitting immigration judges, who should be neutral arbiters, to submit their own evidence in a person’s case or to favor evidence authored by the U.S. government
- creating other arbitrary deadlines for the asylum adjudication process that will inevitably harm people seeking protection.
The rule was one of a series of new regulations the Trump administration published during its final weeks in office as a culmination to its four-year campaign to dismantle the U.S. immigration system.
Additional plaintiffs in the case offered the following statements:
Laura St. John, legal director, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project: "We are relieved that this illegal and immoral rule has been temporarily blocked. This rule, if it had been implemented tomorrow, would have caused many of the people we work with, particularly those who are forced to represent themselves, great harm as they seek safety in the U.S. This is an important first step to ensuring that every person in removal proceedings gets a fair day in court."
Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director, Immigrant Defenders Law Center: "Six days remain in the Trump administration but it will take years to repair and rebuild our asylum system from the harm they caused. This is a welcomed decision, and hopefully one step of many to end the destruction caused over the last four years. This decision tell us due process still means something, liberty and fairness still mean something, and you can't take that away so easily without a fight from those on the right side of history."
Brooke Bischoff, managing attorney, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center: "This ruling is the first step in ensuring that these drastic, inhumane changes to our asylum policy never see the light of day. We are proud to be part of the fight to ensure fair asylum processes for all and look forward to continuing to serve our clients who would have otherwise been shut out of the asylum process had this rule gone into effect on Friday."