On December 18, 2019, Innovation Law Lab and its partners sued in federal court to challenge the weaponization of the nation’s immigration court system to serve the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. The complaint alleges that President Trump, Attorney General Barr, and other members of the executive branch have failed to establish a fair immigration court system in which Law Lab and its partners can provide meaningful legal representation to their asylum-seeking clients. The lawsuit asks the court to halt unlawful policies that undermine impartial adjudication in immigration court and to order Defendants to take corrective action to ensure that the immigration court system operates in accordance with law.
The complaint outlines pervasive dysfunction and bias within the immigration court system, including:
- Areas that have become known as “asylum-free zones,” where virtually no asylum claims have been granted for the past several years.
- The nationwide backlog of pending immigration cases, which has now surpassed 1 million — meaning that thousands of asylum seekers must wait three or four years for a court date.
- The Enforcement Metrics Policy, implemented last year, which gives judges a personal financial stake in every case they decide and pushes them to deny more cases more quickly.
- The “family unit” court docket, which stigmatizes the cases of recently arrived families and rushes their court dates, often giving families inadequate time to find an attorney and prepare for their hearings.
The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the District of Oregon on behalf of Plaintiffs Innovation Law Lab, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Santa Fe Dreamers Project (SFDP).