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Supreme Court refuses to reinstate Trump’s “asylum ban” – following litigation by Innovation Law Lab and others

December 21, 2018 – In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court refused to allow the Trump Administration to enforce its unlawful “asylum ban” – which aimed to render all immigrants who crossed the southern border without inspection ineligible for asylum.

The Supreme Court ruling follows a preliminary injunction issued in federal district court earlier this week that halted implementation of the ban, labeling it “invalid” and citing the profound harms it would have to those seeking asylum.

The ruling also follows the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to not interfere with the lower district court’s ruling, agreeing with the district court that the ban is likely inconsistent with governing law. Both the Ninth Circuit Court’s and the Supreme Court’s decisions follow an attempt by the Trump Administration to force these courts to stay the district court’s order pending appeal.

These important legal victories stem from a lawsuit brought by the Innovation Law Lab and three other legal services organizations in early November. The suit argues that the president does not have the authority to unilaterally rewrite an immigration statute adopted by Congress which clearly states that those fleeing persecution may apply for asylum regardless of how they entered the country.

According to Ian Philabaum, Program Director at the Innovation Law Lab, currently based at the Tijuana-San Diego border, “The ill-conceived and unconstitutional ‘asylum ban’ is an illegal attempt by the Trump Administration to suspend the rule of law. The Innovation Law Lab’s technology and program design are critical to protecting the rights of everyone and securing fair and just treatment for children and families fleeing persecution.”

Philabaum and other staff at the Innovation Law Lab have been forced to divert time and resources into creating stopgap solutions for asylum seekers who have been targeted by the Trump Administration. Among the measures implemented by the Innovation Law Lab is a software tool that enables lawyers, advocates, activists and on-the-ground volunteers to conduct rapid and secure intakes. Use of the tool allows the Innovation Law Lab to measure the extent to which the rule of law is being followed at the border and, later, to connect asylum-seekers with legal resources in the United States.

In the federal court’s ruling, which blocks implementation of the asylum ban,  Judge Jon Tigar specifically cited this rapid response work. “[The Innovation Law Lab] has expended significant resources to send staff to the border as it attempts to shift its programs. It has also been forced to devote resources to develop new software and guidance tools to operate in a more time-sensitive environment with fewer technological resources.”

The Innovation Law Lab and fellow platinfifs, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (ESBC) in Berkeley, Al Otro Lado in San Diego, and Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

You can support the Innovation Law Lab’s efforts to uphold asylum seekers’ rights and the rule of law by making a gift.

The Supreme Court ruling follows a preliminary injunction issued in federal district court earlier this week that halted implementation of the ban, labeling it “invalid” and citing the profound harms it would have to those seeking asylum.

The ruling also follows the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to not interfere with the lower district court’s ruling, agreeing with the district court that the ban is likely inconsistent with governing law. Both the Ninth Circuit Court’s and the Supreme Court’s decisions follow an attempt by the Trump Administration to force these courts to stay the district court’s order pending appeal.

These important legal victories stem from a lawsuit brought by the Innovation Law Lab and three other legal services organizations in early November. The suit argues that the president does not have the authority to unilaterally rewrite an immigration statute adopted by Congress which clearly states that those fleeing persecution may apply for asylum regardless of how they entered the country.

“The crisis at the border is one of our federal government’s own making,” said Ian Philabaum, Program Director at the Innovation Law Lab, who has been spending more time at the Tijuana-San Diego border as of late. “The ill-conceived and unconstitutional ‘asylum ban’ is one of several attempts by our government to drastically limit all forms of immigration and implement white nationalist policies at the border.”

Philabaum and other staff at the Innovation Law Lab have been forced to divert time and resources into creating stopgap solutions for asylum seekers who have been targeted by the Trump Administration. Among the measures implemented by the Innovation Law Lab is a software tool that enables partner organizations and on-the-ground volunteers to conduct rapid and secure intakes. Use of the tool will allow the Innovation Law Lab to measure the extent to which the rule of law is being followed at the border and, later, connect asylum seekers with legal resources in the United States.

In the federal court’s ruling, which blocks the ban’s implementation,  Judge Jon Tigar specifically cited this rapid response work. “[The Innovation Law Lab] has expended significant resources to send staff to the border as it attempts to shift its programs. It has also been forced to devote resources to develop new software and guidance tools to operate in a more time-sensitive environment with fewer technological resources.”

The Innovation Law Lab and fellow platinfifs, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (ESBC) in Berkeley, Al Otro Lado in San Diego, and Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).

You can support the Innovation Law Lab’s efforts to uphold asylum seekers’ rights and the rule of law by making a gift.

Innovation Law Lab argues that Jeff Sessions’ anti-immigrant bias renders him unfit to re-evaluate asylum case

On Friday, April 27, 2018, the Innovation Law Lab filed an amicus brief with United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, challenging his decision to reopen a settled asylum case on the grounds that his anti-immigrant and anti-asylum conduct disqualify him from exercising his authority to refer and review immigration cases.

“It appears the Attorney General of the United States is using his powerful position to advance a radical and unlawful rewrite of the law of asylum,” said Stephen Manning, Executive Director of the Innovation Law Lab. “His connections with white nationalist and alt-right organizations are troubling and problematic. Foundational principles of fairness require that he recuse himself—and his staff—from deciding on the Matter of A-B-.

The case at hand, known as the Matter of A-B- (initials are used to protect the asylee’s privacy), involves a domestic violence victim who fled to the United States after she was unable to obtain protection in her own country. Details on the case were initially kept secret by the Justice Department, but later made public by the attorneys who represented her. It was also later learned that Sessions selected this case for consideration in spite of objections from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Sessions’ decision to refer individual immigration cases to himself for review is an overstep of his authority and can adversely affect the outcome of future asylum cases. By overturning past decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), Sessions can, in effect, rewrite asylum and immigration policy.

The Innovation Law Lab was represented by Nadia Dahab of Stoll Berne, a Portland-based law firm. The amicus brief prepared by Nadia and her team draws from research from the Southern Poverty Law Center, particularly, the Extremist Files and Hatewatch, to cogently analyze and map the Attorney General’s connections to white nationalist and anti-immigrant organizations.

The brief argues that insofar as the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires the Attorney General to fairly and impartially administer immigration laws and the Attorney General and his staff promote racist and white nationalist viewpoints, the Attorney General has prejudged the issues presented in the Matter of A-B- and, therefore, cannot be an impartial judge where immigration and asylum law is concerned.

The Innovation Law Lab joined several other legal and advocacy organizations in voicing concerns over Sessions’ decision to reevaluate the Matter of A-B-. Other organizations that also submitted amicus briefs include the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC), the Tahirih Justice Center, and the American Bar Association (ABA).

Read the Innovation Law Lab amicus brief

See Jeff Sessions’ connections to anti-immigrant advocates and organizations

Please direct all inquiries to Victoria Bejarano Muirhead at victoria@innovationlawlab.org.

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