On December 18, 2019, Innovation Law Lab and our 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 the President, Attorney General, and other members of the executive branch have failed to establish a fair immigration court system in which Law Lab and our 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, which imposes case completion goals and case timelines, giving judges a personal financial stake in every case they decide and pushing them to deny more cases more quickly.
- The “family unit” (“FAMU”) 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.
UPDATE: On July 31, 2020, the District Court for the District of Oregon denied Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, allowing the case to move forward. Under the Biden administration, Defendants are currently reviewing the Enforcement Metrics and FAMU policies at issue in this case.
The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the District of Oregon on behalf of Plaintiffs Innovation Law Lab, 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). Counsel for Plaintiffs are Innovation Law Lab and Southern Poverty Law Center, with pro bono support from Perkins Coie LLP.