Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan heard at the Ninth Circuit

Statement on Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan | April 24, 2019

Innovation Law Lab is the lead plaintiff in a case that seeks to overturn the dangerous "Remain in Mexico" policy, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases wind their way through immigration court.Earlier this month, a federal court sided with Innovation Law Lab in finding the policy in question to be unlawful. That decision was appealed by the federal government, and the case was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on April 24, 2019.The courtroom was packed, largely with staff and supporters of the six immigrants' rights advocacy groups that brought this suit. PJ Podesta, advocacy coordinator at the Innovation Law Lab, was present and shared remarks following the hearing.We are now awaiting the court's decision.

Posted by Innovation Law Lab on Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April 24, 2019 – Innovation Law Lab is the lead plaintiff in a case that seeks to overturn the dangerous “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases wind their way through immigration court.

Earlier this month, a federal court sided with Innovation Law Lab in finding the policy in question to be unlawful. That decision was appealed by the federal government, and the case was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on April 24, 2019.

The courtroom was packed, largely with staff and supporters of the six immigrants’ rights advocacy groups that brought this suit. PJ Podesta, advocacy coordinator at the Innovation Law Lab, was present and shared remarks following the hearing.

We are now awaiting the court’s decision.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Innovation Law Lab, Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Al Otro Lado, Tahirih Justice Center, and 11 asylum seekers affected by the “Remain in Mexico” policy. Legal counsel is provided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS).

For media inquiries about the suit, contact:

Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-284-7347, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org

Jen Fuson, SPLC, 202-834-6209, jen.fuson@splcenter.org

Brianna Krong, CGRS, 415-581-8835, krongbrianna@uchastings.edu

For inquiries about Innovation Law Lab, contact:

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, 971-801-6047, victoria@innovationlawlab.org

Director of Strategic Initiatives & Relationships

Director of Strategic Initiatives & Relationships

Job Title: Director of Strategic Initiatives & Relationships                       
Date Posted: 4/22/2019; open until filled                                

Category: Full time, permanent                    

FLSA Status: Exempt

ORGANIZATION SUMMARY

Innovation Law Lab (Law Lab) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating humanity over fear. We combine technology and litigation to permanently end the mass incarceration and deportation of immigrants and refugees.

JOB SUMMARY

The Director of Strategic Initiatives & Relationships  plays a critical role in ensuring the sustainability and continued growth of Innovation Law Lab. This position is responsible for planning and executing the organization’s fundraising, communications, and strategic initiative efforts, in close coordination with the Executive Director, Law Lab staff, and the Board of Directors. This position designs and implements strategic initiatives in every mode of giving from individual donors, to corporate and foundation relations, to government grants. Additionally, this position takes the lead on communications efforts, including policy reports, media relations, social media management, and brand/marketing. This role maintains strong relationships with donors, local and national partners, and provides guidance to other Law Lab staff members on fundraising, communications, and other initiatives as needed.

The Director of Strategic Initiatives & Relationships reports to the Executive Director and is part of a five-person leadership team, which also includes the Executive Director, Program Director, Technology Director, and Operations Director. This position was previously titled “Development Director,” but updated to better reflect the needs of our nimble, “startup”-style organization and more closely align this position with our programmatic and policy work. This position will be required to work out of Innovation Law Lab headquarters in Portland, Oregon and may travel occasionally. Relocation assistance is not available.

ESSENTIAL JOB DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Develop an annual fundraising plan and budget. Lead the cultivation and solicitation of donors and supporters. Track performance and report back to Executive Director and Board of Directors periodically.
  • Write proposals and grant applications for general operating support and strategic initiatives. When appropriate, partner with staff and board members to identify funding opportunities and collaboratively prepare solicitation strategies.
  • Maintain records of donors, grant opportunities, restricted funds, and emails subscribers. Prepare reports as needed. Assure gifts are accepted, acknowledged, expended, and reported on in accordance with donor wishes and the law. These duties are carried out in collaboration with the Operations Director and bookkeeper.
  • Operationalize systems for further donor and supporter engagement. Communicate with Law Lab’s constituency through different platforms, from social media to email marketing to one-on-one meetings.
  • Promote Law Lab image and development opportunities by being active in the social justice nonprofit space and the immigrant advocacy space both locally and nationally. Attend community events, coalition meetings, and other events as representative of the organization.
  • Organize events for friends and supporters.
  • Write and disseminate press releases, reports, blog posts, and other newsworthy information with members of local and national media. Partner with Law Lab staff to create communications materials and external-facing components for advocacy campaigns and legal work.
  • Play an integral role in mapping out the strategic growth of the organization. Keep a pulse on opportunities and trends in communications, development, and organizational management, as well as immigration policy and current events broadly.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.

EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND ABILITIES

The following are the minimum levels required to successfully perform the essential job duties and responsibilities.

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent years of experience.
  • Three years of experience in fundraising, development, communications, marketing, or another comparable field.
  • Excellent written, analytical, verbal, and organizational skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to be creative and resourceful in a nimble organization experiencing rapid growth and increasingly at the forefront of responding to the federal government’s shifting immigration policies.
  • Experience using donor management software tools and project management/collaboration software tools.
  • Track record of successfully soliciting grants/major gifts and/or comparable track record of success in respective field.
  • Demonstrated commitment to immigrants’ rights and the rule of law.
  • Experience working with people from diverse backgrounds highly preferred.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Environment and Physical Requirements:

The Director of Strategic Initiatives & Relationships works primarily in an office environment; however, the position may travel to locations throughout the United States and potentially internationally to advocate for the immigrant rights issues. These locations may include cities where Innovation Law Lab has established “Centers of Excellence,” immigrant detention centers, law firms, and government buildings. The position interacts with Law Lab staff, advocacy groups, clients, government agencies, and others. The position sits for extended periods of the workday, but also stands, walks, bends, lifts, and moves intermittently during working hours. The incumbent must be able to lift, push, pull and move files and document in excess of 10 pounds.

Hours:

The Director of Strategic Initiatives & Relationships works a full-time schedule of not less than 32 hour a week at the incumbent’s discretion based on business need. The actual time required will often exceed 32 hours a week. This position may be required to work extended hours based on fluctuating workloads. This may include evenings, weekends, and holidays. The position is classified as exempt and is not eligible for overtime pay.

Other Duties and Responsibilities:

This job description is a summary of the essential duties and responsibilities for this job, and it does not necessarily represent an all-inclusive list of duties, responsibilities, tasks or procedures. Employees are required to follow any other job-related instructions and to perform any other job-related duties requested by any person authorized to give instruction or assignments. Nothing in this description restricts Law Lab’s right to assign or reassign duties at any time.

Accommodation Statement:

Essential job duties and responsibilities are subject to possible modification to reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities. To perform the job successfully, an incumbent or applicant must possess the experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform each essential duty and responsibility proficiently. If you require an accommodation in order to perform the essential duties and responsibilities of this job, please contact the Law Lab Executive Director.

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS

To apply, send your resume and a cover letter to jobs@innovationlawlab.org. Questions may also be directed to jobs@innovationlawlab.org. While applications will be accepted until the position is filled, we anticipate we will begin conducting interviews in early/mid May 2019.

Innovation Law Lab is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Nationwide Preliminary Injunction Granted in Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen

April 8, 2019. Today, federal district judge Richard Seeborg granted our request for a nationwide preliminary injunction in Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, a case challenging implementation of the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols.”  This new policy forcibly returned certain asylum seekers to Mexico where their lives are in danger.  Under Judge Seeborg’s order, which goes into effect on April 12, 2019 at 5 PM PST, the Trump administration is enjoined from continuing to implement or expand the Migrant Protection Protocols, and also must allow the eleven named plaintiffs to return to the United States to continue their asylum cases.

“We are grateful that the court has ended the forcible return policy because it was illegal, inhumane, and, most importantly, put people’s lives in  danger” said Stephen W Manning, the Director at Innovation Law Lab. The decision also finds that the Migrant Protection Protocols do not satisfy the United States’ obligations to avoid returning asylum seekers to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of a protected ground.

Program Director Ian Philabaum has been working directly with asylum seekers subject to the program since January 2019.  “Over one thousand people have been returned to Mexico under the program since its ill-fated beginning,” he commented. “We remain committed to seeking justice for every person who has been endangered by their unlawful return, and continuing our fight against the broad damage the Trump administration is inflicting on asylum seekers and the rule of the law in the US.”

Plaintiffs in the suit include Innovation Law Lab, Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Al Otro Lado, Tahirih Justice Center, and 11 asylum seekers affected by the policy in question. Legal counsel is provided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS).

For media inquiries about the suit, contact:

Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-284-7347, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org

Jen Fuson, SPLC, 202-834-6209, jen.fuson@splcenter.org

Brianna Krong, CGRS, 415-581-8835, krongbrianna@uchastings.edu

For inquiries about Innovation Law Lab, contact:

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, 971-801-6047, victoria@innovationlawlab.org

Innovation Law Lab statement following “Remain in Mexico” court hearing

Full text of remarks:

Hello everyone, I’m P.J. Podesta. I’m an Advocacy Coordinator for Innovation Law Lab based in Oakland, California.

Today I am in San Francisco, where a very important case, with the potential to impact thousands of asylum seekers, was just heard in federal court. The case is now being adjudicated and we hope to hear a decision soon.

The case is called Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen. Innovation Law Lab is the lead plaintiff, joined by several other organizations and 11 asylum seekers. We brought this lawsuit to overturn the Trump Administration’s unprecedented policy of forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico as their cases move through immigration court.

The policy we are challenging is called the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” sometimes referred to as MPP for short. The name is cruel and misleading – it is actually very dangerous to migrants. MPP is the latest attempt by the Trump Administration to deter asylum seekers from exercising their right to seek refuge in a safe country.

Why is the policy dangerous? It is well documented that migrants face danger and exploitation at the border. By forcing asylum seekers back to the border, the federal government is knowingly placing them in harm’s way. MPP is in direct violation of the humanitarian protections to which immigrants are guaranteed under not only U.S, but international, law as well.

Here’s a little background on the history of MPP. It was implemented in late January. Since then, asylum seekers have been sent back from the U.S. to Mexico on an almost daily basis. In mid-February, it was reported that not only were adults being affected by this policy, but so were children.

As soon as Innovation Law Lab and fellow legal advocates learned about this new policy, attorneys and staff went to the border to begin identifying and interviewing people affected by it. The testimonies we collected formed the basis of the case that will be heard today in court. The lawsuit was filed on February 14, 2019.

Earlier this week, the first wave of asylum seekers affected by this policy had their first court hearings. They were required to show up at Tijuana-San Diego border, where they were sent through security and were then taken into government custody to be shuttled to immigration court.

I want to tell you about one of the asylum seekers I met in Tijuana who had been sent back as a result of this policy. I met him just as he had been forcibly returned. I will never forget the mixture of shock and fear on his face.

After enduring brutal violence, he fled his home country and traveled 2,000 miles through Mexico to reach the U.S. border. In Tijuana, he was forced to wait for Customs & Border Patrol – or CBP – to allow him to ask for asylum. While he waited in a temporary shelter, he witnessed a murder, then witnessed local police do nothing to stop the assailant. Soon after, he came across body parts discarded in a nearby trash can. Surrounded by such violence, he anxiously looked forward to the day when he would be admitted to the U.S. to seek asylum.

When he was finally allowed by U.S. officials to cross the border, he was taken to what is often called a hielera, or an “icebox.” The hielera is a holding cell kept at near-freezing temperatures. Every asylum seeker, regardless of their gender, age, or health conditions passes through these hieleras when they enter the U.S.

Immigration officers rigorously questioned him, but did not once ask if he was afraid to return to Mexico. He told me afterwards that if he had been given the opportunity, he would have absolutely told them that he was afraid to return. Then – without knowing what was happening – he suddenly found himself handcuffed and returned by van to Tijuana.

I will never forget what he told me: “I am just as afraid of being in Mexico as I was in my home country.”

His story is harrowing, but unfortunately, it is not unique. Many of the migrants we met in Tijuana, including the 11 asylum seekers that join us in today’s case as plaintiffs, shared similar stories.

MPP is cut from the same cloth as the so-called “zero tolerance” policy. It is designed to cause chaos and confusion, to keep asylum seekers out no matter the cost. Regardless of the facts on the ground, the Trump Administration is now planning to expand this policy to other ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, making this ill-conceived and dangerous experiment more likely the norm.

Today, we stand in solidarity with migrants fleeing violence and seeking asylum. We know that millions of Americans stand in solidarity, too.

I want to take a moment and speak directly to those who stand in solidarity with us today: I know you are outraged at the attacks on migrants perpetrated by Trump Administration. I know you oppose the practices that aim to block the entry of asylum seekers into our country. I know you are horrified by the mass detention of immigrants across our country. And I know you are eager to welcome asylum seekers into your homes and communities. I know that you, like us, imagine a country where humanity wins out over fear.

Today’s lawsuit is an important step in the right direction. It isn’t the first time we’ve challenged the Trump Administration and it probably won’t be the last time. But with your support, Innovation Law Lab will continue to fight against policies rooted in xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and racism.

Thank you for being part of this fight for human rights.  


Plaintiffs in the suit include Innovation Law Lab, Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Al Otro Lado, Tahirih Justice Center, and 11 asylum seekers affected by the policy in question. Legal counsel is provided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS).

For media inquiries about the suit, contact:

Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-284-7347, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org

Jen Fuson, SPLC, 202-834-6209, jen.fuson@splcenter.org

Brianna Krong, CGRS, 415-581-8835, krongbrianna@uchastings.edu

For inquiries about Innovation Law Lab, contact:

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, 971-801-6047, victoria@innovationlawlab.org

Innovation Law Lab and other groups challenge the Trump Administration in court

Photo Caption: Attorneys and asylum seekers at a port of entry.

March 22, 2019 – Today, a federal court will decide if our country’s humanitarian laws can put an end to the Trump Administration’s latest attack on asylum seekers at the border. We are challenging the unlawful and dangerous “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forcibly returns asylum seekers to Mexico while their cases are adjudicated in immigration court.

Our team has been at the border identifying and interviewing individuals affected by the policy. The people we spoke with expressed bewilderment and dread over the prospect of remaining in Tijuana, where migrants routinely face abuse and violence.

In the words of asylum seekers that have been sent back to Mexico:

“I am just as afraid of being in Mexico as I was in my home country.”

“I am alone and I also fear for my safety when I leave the safe house because the border zone is very dangerous, particularly for women and members of the LGBTQ community like me.”

“I had already said many times that I was afraid to go back to Mexico, and nobody seemed to care.”

“Not only do I feel unsafe here as an asylum seeker, I am afraid that narcotraffickers will find me and kill me… During my entire time on the U.S. side of the border, no one ever asked me if I was afraid of being returned to Mexico.”

“Apart from my fear of being in Mexico, I am also worried about how I will fight my asylum case. I don’t know how I can find a U.S. immigration lawyer while I’m in Tijuana.”

“At one point, I had to interrupt the [officer] to explain that I didn’t feel safe in Mexico. He told me that it was too bad… He told me I’d have to figure out how to survive in Tijuana.”

“Because I am a migrant here with only temporary immigration status, I feel that I am in danger and would not be protected by the Mexican government if I had a problem. I feel very visible because I have a Honduran accent… I also have visible scars and injuries on my head and face from when the Mara 18 tried to kill me in Honduras. These scars make it obvious that I am an asylum seeker.”

We will be in court today because asylum is a right. Because due process is a cornerstone of our Constitution. And because we strive to create a country where humanity rises above fear.

To support our work at the border, make a gift.

Staff Attorney

Job Title: Staff Attorney                        Date Posted: 3/20/2019

Open until filled                                   
                      

Category: Full time, permanent                     FLSA Status: Exempt

ORGANIZATION SUMMARY

Innovation Law Lab (Law Lab) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating humanity over fear. We combine technology and litigation to permanently end the mass incarceration and deportation of immigrants and refugees.

JOB SUMMARY

The Staff Attorney is a position in our growing legal program. The Staff Attorney will use creative legal and advocacy strategies to directly challenge prolonged detention, constitutional violations, and other injustices in the immigration legal system. The Staff Attorney will be primarily charged with discussing and designing best strategies to provide legal representation in immigration and other related proceedings, providing support and interventions in ongoing immigration court cases, including cases involving asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, removal proceedings, other forms of immigration relief, and anti-detention remedies. The Staff Attorney will report to the Legal Director and serve as an integral member of the law program. Innovation Law Lab is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, but this position may be based anywhere in the United States.   

ESSENTIAL JOB DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Supervise and mentor pro bono attorneys representing individuals in removal proceedings before the Executive Offices for Immigration Review (EOIR) and USCIS.
  • Collaborate with staff in creating and analyzing legal strategies; personalizing case interventions/actions; and contributing to the development of best practices at the intersection of technology and the law.
  • Engage in outreach and education (provide immigrant rights trainings, speak at key conferences and community forums, and other opportunities as they arise)
  • Develop materials to train and aid staff, pro bono attorneys, clients, and pro se respondents as they endeavor to navigate the complex immigration system.
  • Travel nationally and internationally for team convenings, trainings, collaborative projects, and other engagements.
  • Perform other duties as assigned.

EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND ABILITIES

The following are the minimum levels required to successfully perform the essential job duties and responsibilities.

  • JD degree and admission to the bar.
  • Minimum of two years experience practicing immigration law. Preference will be given to those with additional years of direct services experience.  
  • Knowledge of BIA and Immigration Court procedures.
  • Excellent written, analytical, oral, organizational and time management skills.
  • Well-organized, efficient, highly motivated, able to work well under pressure, and able to work independently and as part of a remote team.
  • Must maintain professional demeanor and excellent work ethics at all times.
  • Demonstrated commitment to immigrant rights and social justice.
  • Experience working with people from diverse backgrounds, including low-income populations, people who are marginally housed, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, people of color and/or persons with disabilities.
  • Advanced Spanish language skills strongly preferred.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Environment and Physical Requirements:

The Staff Attorney works primarily in an office environment; however, the position may travel to locations throughout the United States and potentially internationally to advocate for the immigrant rights issues. These locations may include cities where Innovation Law Lab has established “Centers of Excellence,” immigrant detention centers, law firms, and government buildings. The position interacts with Law Lab staff, advocacy groups, clients, government agencies, and others. The Staff Attorney sits for extended periods of the workday, but also stands, walks, bends, lifts, and moves intermittently during working hours. The incumbent must be able to lift, push, pull and move files and document in excess of 10 pounds.

Hours:

The Staff Attorney works a full-time schedule of not less than 32 hour a week at the incumbent’s discretion based on business need. The actual time required will often exceed 32 hours a week. The Staff Attorney may be required to work extended hours based on fluctuating workloads. This may include evenings, weekends, and holidays. The position is classified as exempt and is not eligible for overtime pay.

Other Duties and Responsibilities:

This job description is a summary of the essential duties and responsibilities for this job, and it does not necessarily represent an all-inclusive list of duties, responsibilities, tasks or procedures. Employees are required to follow any other job-related instructions and to perform any other job-related duties requested by any person authorized to give instruction or assignments. Nothing in this description restricts Law Lab’s right to assign or reassign duties at any time.

Accommodation Statement:

Essential job duties and responsibilities are subject to possible modification to reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities. To perform the job successfully, an incumbent or applicant must possess the experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform each essential duty and responsibility proficiently. If you require an accommodation in order to perform the essential duties and responsibilities of this job, please contact the Law Lab Executive Director.

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS

To apply, send a resume and cover letter to jobs@innovationlawlab.org. Questions may also be directed to jobs@innovationlawlab.org.

Innovation Law Lab is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Asylum seekers returned to Mexico fear for their safety, lives

March 19, 2019 – This Friday, Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen will be heard in federal court. The case seeks to overturn the Trump Administration’s policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico to await the outcomes of their immigration cases. Since the policy’s implementation in late January, asylum seekers—including children—have been sent back to Mexico almost daily.

Innovation Law Lab attorneys and staff, in partnership with Al Otro Lado and other legal advocacy organizations, have been working at the border to identify and interview asylum seekers who were returned to Mexico. Many of those returned have expressed bewilderment and dread over the prospect of remaining in Tijuana, where migrants routinely face abuse and violence.

Testimony from nearly a dozen asylum seekers formed the basis of the lawsuit filed in federal court on February 14, 2019. Three of those stories are shared below.

Howard Doe

On the journey from Honduras to the U.S. border, Howard Doe recounted narrowly escaping escaping Los Zetas, a drug cartel in Mexico, that kidnapped him and other migrants. “The armed men would intimidate us with their guns and tell us they were going to kill us and burn our bodies so that no could could find our bodies.”

When Howard presented himself at a port of entry to request asylum, he thought he would finally be safe from the reach of Los Zetas. “I told the asylum officer all of this,” he said. “I wanted to refuse to go back to Mexico, but I was afraid that they might punish me for speaking up. I had already said many times that I was afraid to go back to Mexico, and nobody seemed to care.”

Despite sharing his fears with a U.S. immigration officer, Howard was still selected for return to Mexico to await the outcome of his asylum case. Los Zetas is known for torturing and killing those who evade them, and Howard fears that as long as he remains in Mexico, he will be a target.

Bianca Doe

Bianca Doe knows her only option for survival is to petition for asylum in the U.S. “In Honduras, if you are a lesbian, you may as well be dead.”

When Bianca was a teenager, she was raped and became pregnant. “He told me that he did this because I am a lesbian and love women,” she recalled.

Shortly after her son was born, the child’s father sued her for custody. “When we went to court, the judge said that, because of my sexual orientation, I am not a fit mother and would not raise my son correctly… When my family found out that I was a lesbian, they supported my son’s father in the custody battle.”

In spite of the challenges faced by lesbians in Honduras, Bianca found companionship and love with another woman. Once her girlfriend’s father found out about their relationship, he became enraged and beat his daughter. He then drove his daughter and Bianca to a location near the Honduras-Guatemala border. “He parked the car and threatened me that unless I left Honduras, he would kill me and that he would also kill my partner, his daughter,” Bianca said. “I had no choice but to leave. I got out of the car and walked across the border right then and there.”

Prior to presenting herself at a port of entry, Bianca connected with Cristian Sanchez, an attorney at RAICES, who provided her with a letter requesting she not be returned to Mexico, as well as an index of documents on country conditions in Honduras. However, she was never given the opportunity to present these documents or even bring them with her to her interview with an immigration officer.  

Bianca is now living in a shelter for LGBTQ asylum seekers, where she—like so many others—continues to hope she will one day be admitted into the U.S. “I am alone and I also fear for my safety when I leave the safe house because the border zone is very dangerous, particularly for women and members of the LGBTQ community like me.”

John Doe

An indigenous man from Guatemala, John sought asylum in the U.S. after being threatened and severely beaten by the Ronderos de San Juan, a death squad that controls his hometown. His journey was a difficult one, marked by a close encounter with a drug cartel that boarded a train he was traveling on. “Not only do I feel unsafe here as an asylum seeker, I am afraid that narcotraffickers will find me and kill me… During my entire time on the U.S. side of the border, no one ever asked me if I was afraid of being returned to Mexico.”

John also worries he will not be able to adequately prepare for his asylum hearing. Had he been permitted to remain in the U.S., he could have been released to stay with his family, including U.S.-citizen siblings who live in California. Instead, he remains far from their support with his legal case and more.

John was among the first asylum seekers to be returned to Mexico as a result of the Trump Administration’s so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols.” He fears for his life and safety as he moves between shelters in Tijuana, Mexico. That fear has only intensified since he was briefly admitted into the United States, with the promise of refuge and reunification with his family, only to be sent back across the border.

To read the suit filed on February 14, 2019, click here.

To read declarations filed by plaintiffs, including the individuals mentioned in this post, click here.

For media inquiries about the suit, contact:

Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-284-7347, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org

Jen Fuson, SPLC, 202-834-6209, jen.fuson@splcenter.org

Brianna Krong, CGRS, 415-581-8835, krongbrianna@uchastings.edu

For inquiries about Innovation Law Lab, contact:

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, 971-801-6047, victoria@innovationlawlab.org

Innovation Law Lab and other groups demand an immediate end to returning asylum seekers to Mexico

February 21, 2019 – Late last night, Innovation Law Lab and other groups asked a federal court to immediately halt the return of asylum-seeking migrants to Mexico. A hearing is expected soon.

“Every day this policy is allowed to continue, more asylum seekers are placed in harm’s way,” said Stephen Manning, Innovation Law Lab executive director. “Turning back individuals who are lawfully applying for asylum is, simply put, unconscionable.”

The filing is the latest in the lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, which challenges the legality of the Trump Administration’s forced return practiced, the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” which forcibly returns asylum seekers to Mexico where they are at great risk of harm.

The filing also comes on the heels of the expansion of the policy to include not only adult asylum seekers, but families with children. On February 13, a family was returned with a one-year-old child.

“People we spoke with in Tijuana reported feeling too fearful to venture outside of the shelters and homes where they were staying,” said Jordan Cunnings, Innovation Law Lab staff attorney. “Not only do they fear violence at the hands of cartel members or others who may target vulnerable migrants, but they worry the Mexican government may deport them while they wait.”

Read the filing here.

Innovation Law Lab is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS). Plaintiffs in the suit include Innovation Law Lab, Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Al Otro Lado, Tahirih Justice Center, and 11 asylum seekers affected by the policy in question.

Innovation Law Lab lead plaintiff in lawsuit challenging Trump Administration’s return of asylum seekers to Mexico

February 14, 2019 – Innovation Law Lab is at the center of a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s controversial and dangerous new policy of sending asylum-seeking migrants back across the southern border while they await the conclusion of their cases in United States immigration court.

“This is no longer just a war on asylum seekers, it’s a war on our system of laws,” said Melissa Crow, Southern Poverty Law Center senior supervising attorney. “This misguided policy deprives vulnerable individuals of humanitarian protections that have been on the books for decades and puts their lives in jeopardy.”

“Each year, tens of thousands of individuals rely on Innovation Law Lab’s expertise, systems, and technology,” said Stephen Manning, executive director of Innovation Law Lab. “The new protocol not only jeopardizes the lives and well-being of asylum seekers in Mexico, but diverts limited resources and staff time away from existing programs to respond to this crisis.”

“The Trump administration is forcibly returning asylum seekers to danger in Mexico,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.“Once again, the administration is breaking the law in order to deter asylum seekers from seeking safety in the United States.”

“This new policy severely undermines the very purpose of our asylum system, endangering rather than safeguarding the lives of our individual plaintiffs and others fleeing persecution,” said Blaine Bookey, co-legal director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.

Innovation Law Lab uses data, design, and the law to support asylum seekers and provide technological and strategic support to attorneys around the country. Technology developed by Innovation Law Lab is at the core of several large-scale pro bono projects throughout the country, and is increasingly being deployed at the border.

The lawsuit cites violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, as well as the United States’ duty under international human rights law not to return people to dangerous conditions.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Innovation Law Lab, Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law, Al Otro Lado, Tahirih Justice Center, and eleven asylum seekers affected by the policy in question. Plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS).

To read the complaint filed, click here.

For media inquiries about the suit, contact:

Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU, 212-284-7347, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org

Jen Fuson, SPLC, 202-834-6209, jen.fuson@splcenter.org

Brianna Krong, CGRS, 415-581-8835, krongbrianna@uchastings.edu

For inquiries about Innovation Law Lab, contact:

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, 971-801-6047, victoria@innovationlawlab.org

Judge rules NORCOR violated Oregon law

Court finds that NORCOR assisted ICE in a manner that violates ORS 181A.820; finds detention contract not prohibited

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 8, 2019

CONTACTS:

Erin M. Pettigrew, Innovation Law Lab, erin@innovationlawlab.org, 971-612-0540

Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, Innovation Law Lab, victoria@innovationlawlab.org, 971-801-6047

The Dalles, Oregon – In a decision issued today, Judge John Wolf of Wasco County determined that two of Northern Oregon Regional Corrections’ (NORCOR) immigration enforcement practices are illegal under Oregon’s disentanglement law, ORS 181A.820, often referred to as Oregon’s sanctuary statute and the first law of its kind in the nation.

First, the court took issue with NORCOR’s practices of notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when a person is scheduled to be released from the local jail. The court determined that “[t]he record in this case establishes no purpose for the release notifications except for the purpose of detecting and apprehending persons in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”

The court went on to conclude that the jail’s allegedly discontinued practice of holding individuals beyond their release date for ICE is likewise illegal under state law. The court reasoned, “re-seizure or subsequent seizure occurs when an inmate remains in jail after the original basis for incarceration ceases to exist.” Therefore, NORCOR must release the individual as required under state law, and to do otherwise violates ORS 181A.820, said Judge Wolf.  

The trial court held, however, that NORCOR’s contract with ICE to “accept and provide for secure custody” of persons detained for federal immigration enforcement does not violate ORS 181A.820, nor does its policy of notifying ICE of the presence of a foreign-born person upon booking on state or local charges. With respect to the contract, the court determined that the term “apprehend” in the statute “is not commonly understood to mean holding someone in jail or prison.” The court went on to conclude that notifying ICE of the presence of foreign-born persons in the jail did not violate Oregon law because those persons may have violated other state laws and because there is an exception to the statute for exchanges of information to verify immigration status.

Though NORCOR argued the Plaintiffs lacked standing, the trial court disagreed, ruling that the Plaintiffs had standing to bring suit because they had shown negative tax consequences as a result of NORCOR’s relationships with ICE.

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision that NORCOR is violating Oregon law in some respects, but disappointed by the court’s decision with respect to the ICE contract,” said Erin M. Pettigrew of Innovation Law Lab, one of the attorneys representing the Plaintiffs. “As Judge Wolf observed at the hearing, it is likely that some or all of his rulings will be appealed, as they involve issues of broad importance to Oregonians.”

Read the decision here.

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