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Civil Rights Coalition Successfully Enjoins Presidential Health Insurance Proclamation


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


November 26, 2019  – Today, litigators from the Justice Action Center (JAC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the Innovation Law Lab, with pro bono counsel Sidley Austin LLP, and Latino Network as the organizational plaintiff, obtained a preliminary nationwide injunction in Doe v. Trump, thereby ensuring that the administration’s attempt to ban immigrants based on their ability to obtain health insurance upon arrival to the U.S. will not be implemented while litigation continues. With this injunction, the court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted in the absence of an injunction. The health insurance proclamation is an unconstitutional effort that would permanently separate families and damage employers; a coalition of state’s Attorney Generals filed an amicus brief describing the harm it would cause. 

“During this Thanksgiving week, we are so grateful for this court ruling that will keep families together and allow other families to reunite. This decision is an important check on the Trump administration’s effort to rewrite our nation’s immigration and health care laws in violation of the boundaries set out in the Constitution,” says Esther Sung, Senior Litigator at the Justice Action Center.

Jesse Bless, Director of Federal Litigation for AILA stated, “The egregiousness of the Proclamation demanded urgent action to save so many affected immigrants and their loved ones. We are tremendously grateful that our efforts have stopped the President from harming so many immigrant families.”

“Today’s decision protects our Nation’s immigrant families from suffering irreparable harm as a result of the President’s harmful and unlawful proclamation. We are encouraged by the Court’s decision to enforce the rule of law, which does not allow the President to rewrite our immigration laws this way,” added Nadia Dahab, Senior Staff Attorney at Innovation Law Lab.

“We are deeply grateful we had an opportunity to be heard and relieved by the court’s decision. Our families belong together and our program participants deserve to have their dignity and rights respected, no matter where they come from. Today we can assure our families, staff, and program participants that for now their families are safe from the effects of this discriminatory and abusive health care ban,” said Carmen Rubio, Latino Network’s Executive Director.

A temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR, on November 2, 2019, had stopped the federal government from implementing the policy. During that month, approximately 25,000 visas were granted that would otherwise have been denied. The preliminary injunction now solidifies that bar, ensuring the administration cannot move forward with this ban while the litigation continues. 

The government has the ability to seek immediate review of the injunction by the Ninth Circuit while the underlying case moves forward in the District Court.

Background
On October 4, 2019, President Trump signed a proclamation barring qualified immigrants from receiving visas unless they could prove they would be covered by “approved” health insurance within 30 days of arriving in the U.S., or are healthy and wealthy enough to pay for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs” upon arrival. The proclamation, labeled a ban because of its tremendous reach and impact, limited “approved” health insurance to plans that many immigrants do not qualify for; are unavailable in large states like New York and California; or would be impossible to obtain within 30 days of arrival. The proclamation was to go into effect on November 3, 2019.

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PRESS CONTACTS:
Justice Action Center: Christine Chen, christine@christinechen.com
American Immigration Lawyers Association: Belle Woods, bwoods@aila.org
Innovation Law Lab: Ramon Valdez, ramon@innovationlawlab.org 
Martina Bialek, Communications Manager, martina@latnet.org

AG Rosenblum, Advocates Applaud Chief Justice Walters for Issuing Rule to Protect Oregon Courthouses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2019 

CONTACT:
Ramon Valdez, Innovation Law Lab, ramon@innovationlawlab.org, m – 971.238-1804
Sarah Armstrong, sarmstrong@aclu-or.org, m – 503.756.3147

Salem, Ore.一 Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Martha Walters today announced a new rule to stop warrantless, civil arrests in Oregon’s courts. Community groups and immigration advocates petitioned the Chief Justice to adopt the rule in response to rising concern over increased immigration arrests at Oregon’s courthouses. The rule prohibits arrests inside any state courthouse and in public entryways, walkways, sidewalks, driveways, and parking areas around the courthouses. 

“This rule will bring an end to ICE’s destructive policy of courthouse intrusions making immigration arrests inside Oregon’s courts without judicial warrants and often without identifying themselves or producing any documentation at all,” said Stephen Manning, executive director of Innovation Law Lab, a national immigrants’ rights group based in Portland. 

“Our courthouses, like our schools, places of worship, and hospitals, are by their very nature sensitive places where all Oregonians must be able to enter without fear,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “These courthouses, located throughout the state, are centers of civic life, and are absolutely critical for everything from marriage to divorce, to filing for a restraining order, to pursuing justice in our courtrooms. Unfortunately, until now, many of our community members could not use our courthouses without constant fear.  With this Uniform Trial Court Rule, courthouses in Oregon will now be included as sensitive spaces prohibiting civil arrests unless the arresting agency has a judicial arrest warrant. This protects our witnesses, victims, jurors, defendants and other members of the public from interference while they conduct the business of our legal and justice systems. Thank you to our Chief Justice Martha Walters for issuing this important emergency rule, and to the broad coalition of stakeholders who worked to ensure that this critical issue was given the priority it deserves. Thanks to this new rule, Oregon will be a safer and more welcoming place for all.”

Community members and advocates have raised alarm that agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are frequently present at Oregon’s county and municipal courthouses, profiling and targeting community members to make non-criminal, civil immigration arrests. 

“We hear too often from devastated family members whose loved ones have been snatched up out of Oregon courthouses by people in street clothes and stuffed into unmarked cars and driven off,” said Cristina Marquez, interim executive director of Causa Oregon. “People have been afraid to go to the courthouses.”

“ACLU of Oregon legal observers have repeatedly witnessed ICE officers profile, stalk, and violently arrest community members in Oregon courthouses,” said Katherine McDowell, attorney and board member of the ACLU of Oregon. “The courthouse rule stops these frightening practices and ensures that everyone can seek justice in our courts.” 

Carl McPherson, executive director of Metropolitan Public Defender said he was thankful to the Chief Justice for addressing the problem. “As a result, our clients, witnesses, and other court-goers can participate in our judicial system without fear of being arrested and detained by ICE. By issuing this rule, the Chief Justice has ensured that access to our courts is protected for all people regardless of their immigration status.”

The rise in ICE arrests at Oregon courthouses is a direct byproduct of two executive orders issued by President Trump, early in his presidency, which made anyone subject to removal a priority for immigration enforcement. The ICE detentions often involved racial profiling and the use of physical force against individuals, their families, and bystanders. 

Oregon is the third state in the country, after New Jersey and New York state, to issue a statewide court rule prohibiting ICE from making civil arrests at state courthouses without a judicial warrant or judicial order. California provides similar protection through a recently enacted statute, and other rules prohibiting civil or immigration arrests exist in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, and King County, Washington. A federal judge has also prohibited ICE’s courthouse arrests in Middlesex and Suffolk counties, in Massachusetts. 

Innovation Law Lab, with assistance from Stoll Berne, formally petitioned the Chief Justice to issue an emergency rule prohibiting ICE arrests at or near state courthouses on the basis of Oregon’s common-law rule last year.  The petitioners were Adelante Mujeres, Causa Oregon, Immigration Counseling Service, Metropolitan Public Defender, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Unite Oregon, and Victim Rights Law Center. The ACLU of Oregon supported the petition and assisted Innovation Law Lab and Stoll Berne in seeking the court rule.

ICE agents have targeted county and municipal courthouses statewide, with planned or executed ICE arrests occurring, at a minimum, at courthouses serving Multnomah County, Washington County, Clackamas County, Lane County, Marion County, Umatilla County, Morrow County, Sherman County, Gilliam County, Wheeler County, Wasco County, Hood River County, Josephine County, Yamhill County, Lincoln County, Clatsop County, and the municipal courts in Beaverton and Molalla. Those courthouses combined serve nearly 3 million Oregonians, citizen and noncitizen alike.

“Tasked with the administration of justice over criminal issues, domestic relationships, probate, and many other important matters, Oregon state courts form a critical component of our civil society,” said Leland Baxter-Neal, staff attorney at the ACLU of Oregon. “As such, it is imperative that they be open to all Oregonians, including immigrants and persons of color.”

The Chief Justice’s announcement is online here https://www.courts.oregon.gov/news/Lists/ArticleNews/Attachments/1213/acd3fb79befadf4982b20ceba127ffd0-Media-Release-New-UTCR-Limiting-Civil-Arrests-in-Court-Facilities-effective-2019-11-14.pdf

The rule is online here https://www.courts.oregon.gov/rules/UTCR/CJO_2019-095.pdf.
Video of ICE arrests at Oregon courts in Clackamas, Clatsop, Multnomah, and Washington counties is online here:

Advocates Ask Oregon Courts to Ban ICE Arrests at Courthouses

The Oregon Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee hearing will be live streamed at 2 p.m. Friday.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2019

Media Contacts: 
Ramon Valdez, Innovation Law Lab, ramon@innovationlawlab.org, m – 971.238-1804
Sarah Armstrong, ACLU of Oregon, sarmstrong@aclu-or.org, m – 503.756.3147;

SALEM, Ore. — Attorneys with the ACLU of Oregon, Innovation Law Lab, and Stoll Berne will ask Oregon’s Uniform Trial Court Rules Committee Friday to adopt a rule prohibiting civil immigration arrests in and around Oregon’s state courthouses without a judicial warrant. The attorneys submitted the proposed rule on behalf of immigrants’ rights and court advocates including Adelante Mujeres, Causa Oregon, Immigration Counseling Service, Metropolitan Public Defender, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Unite Oregon, and the Victim Rights Law Center. 

“ICE intrusions in and around Oregon courthouses jeopardize the court’s ability to administer justice as required under the Oregon Constitution,” said Nadia Dahab, attorney at Stoll Berne. “Fear of deportation keeps immigrants from reporting crimes and participating in court proceedings.”

VIDEO: Watch the ACLU’s video which reveals ICE activity in Oregon courts, spotlighting incidents at courts in Clackamas, Clatsop, Multnomah, and Washington counties.

In years prior, immigration enforcement prioritized the removal of persons convicted of serious crimes. However, in 2017, the President Trump issued two executive orders making anyone subject to removal a priority for immigration enforcement. Since then, as part of its mass deportation campaign, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has included state courthouses as a focus for conducting immigration enforcement. 

In Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington, courts recognized the harm caused by immigration enforcement at courthouses and limited or  blocked ICE from conducting courthouse arrests. In California, a law was signed this week that will prohibit ICE arrests at courts.

“Courthouses should be a ‘sensitive location’ where immigration enforcement is generally disallowed like hospitals and schools,” said Leland Baxter-Neal, staff attorney at the ACLU of Oregon. “It is in the interest of every Oregonian that our courthouses are a place where individuals, regardless of immigration status, can come to seek protection, file a lawsuit, or attend a court appearance.”

In their request, the lawyers write that ICE enforcement at state courthouses has an “impact on the individuals arrested, their families, and the community’s view of Oregon’s courts as safe and accessible places…every time a community member is forcibly taken by ICE from the courthouse, thousands of individuals begin to feel the very real threat that they might be next.”

“We have heard from so many people who are afraid that if they go to court, even just to pay their parking tickets or be a witness, they may be separated from their family,” said Cristina Delgado, the Immigrant Solidarity Project Coordinator for Adelante Mujeres. 

Last year, the same groups petitioned Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court Martha Walters to protect the safety, welfare, and trust of Oregon’s immigrant community by issuing a rule blocking immigration civil arrests at courthouses. Over 750 Oregon lawyers sent their own letter to the Chief Justice in support of the change, including Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill, the president of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, and the executive directors of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Oregon Law Center, and Legal Aid Services of Oregon. Similarly, the 1,400-member lawyers’ organization, Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS) and over 300 faith leaders from across the state through the through the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) also sent letters to the Chief Justice requesting she issue a rule blocking ICE arrests at Oregon’s courts. 

”As people of faith and conscience, we have a moral obligation to work for justice for all people, ensuring that no matter the situation, people feel safe to seek justice without fear. We need to stop ICE from targeting our courthouses,” said Rev. Adam Hange, United Church of Christ pastor from Washington County and leader with IMIrJ.

The ACLU of Oregon says since 2017, hundreds  of volunteers from the ACLU and community groups have been trained as courthouse legal observers in Oregon. The blue-vested volunteers regularly observe court proceedings and accompany people to court. They have documented federal immigration agents in plainclothes sitting in on county court proceedings and following people out or waiting inside the hallways or on the grounds. The legal observers have witnessed numerous courthouse arrests, including at least one arrest inside a courtroom and multiple arrests in which ICE agents are physically violent. The ICE agents generally have refused to present any warrant for making an arrest, or to provide individuals with access to an attorney, even if one is present.  

“It is terrifying when people in street clothes are grabbing community members from inside and outside the courthouse, stuffing them in unmarked cars, and speeding off,” said Cristina Marquez, interim executive director of Causa Oregon. “These agents don’t answer questions and they don’t produce any documents. What is the difference between what they are doing and a kidnapping?”

The volunteer legal observers also documented the detention of a Latino U.S. citizen and Washington County worker, Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, outside of Washington County Court in 2017. Video of the incident, captured on the ACLU of Oregon’s Mobile Justice app, was widely reported on and viewed across the country. Following the incident, Representative Suzanne Bonamici and Washington County Sheriff Pat Garret criticized ICE’s practices, and Senators Wyden and Merkely called for a congressional inquiry. The agency cleared its agents of wrong-doing and did not apologize to Andrade-Tafolla. In August, Andrade-Tafolla filed an administrative complaint against the agency, seeking $100,000 for “humiliation, emotional distress, and psychological harm” as a result of ICE’s actions that day.

The ACLU of Oregon filed a FOIA request in 2017 seeking documents relating to ICE arrests at state courthouses and ICE’s communications with local government bodies and law enforcement. In August, DHS concluded production releasing more than 35,000 documents to the group. Review of the heavily-redacted and voluminous documents is ongoing, but the ACLU of Oregon says they have found that since 2017, ICE has executed or planned courthouse intrusions at state courthouses serving Clackamas, Clatsop, Gilliam, Hood River, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Sherman, Wasco, Wheeler, Umatilla, Washington, and Yamhill counties and at the municipal courts in Beaverton and Molalla. Those courthouses combined serve nearly three million Oregonians or 71 percent of the state’s residents.

Statewide Expansion of Oregon’s Universal Representation Program For Immigrants Begins

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 30, 2019

Portland, OR ー On October 01, 2019, the Equity Corps of Oregon, a trailblazing universal representation program that provides lawyers for immigrants in removal proceedings who cannot afford private legal representation, will begin providing legal services statewide. Equity Corps launched on October 1, 2018 with support from the City of Portland and Multnomah County, but is now able to expand statewide thanks to the State of Oregon’s $2 million investment in the innovative program. 

Legal defense for those facing deportation proceedings remains an urgent need throughout Oregon.  In a 2018 survey conducted by the Oregon Law Foundation, 70% of participants identified immigration as a civil legal issue that had a very or extremely negative effect on their lives. Unlike in criminal proceedings, respondents appearing before the U.S. immigration court do not have the right to court-appointed counsel. Meanwhile, the federal government is always represented by an attorney.  Those going before the Portland Immigration Court without legal representation are nearly five-and-a-half times more likely to lose their cases and be ordered deported from the United States; many to situations where their lives are in immediate danger. 

“No one should have to navigate our country’s highly complex immigration system without an attorney, especially when the consequences can include permanent family separation and removal to a country where they may face serious harms,” said Jordan Cunnings, managing Equity Corps attorney at Innovation Law Lab.  “Equity Corps aims to remedy the injustice wrought by this representation crisis by providing all income-eligible immigrant Oregonians with high quality legal services and representation.” 

Equity Corps is specifically designed to address this representation gap.  By leveraging the power of collaborative representation and innovative technology, Oregon’s universal representation program allows Oregonians in deportation proceedings to enter the pro bono legal services structure through a Community Navigator. Community navigators are trained to conduct a free, confidential, and secure referral into the program’s case clearinghouse database which is developed and maintained by software engineers at Innovation Law Lab, a Portland-based nonprofit. Those eligible for legal support through Equity Corps will then have access to free legal orientations, limited scope legal service workshops, legal representation, and connections to medical or mental health resources. 

In many ways, Oregonians are leading the country’s effort to establish a scalable, holistic, and high-quality universal legal defense system to ensure justice for immigrant members of its communities. “We are grateful to the people of Oregon for their ongoing trust and support in this essential effort.” said Benjamin Grass of Innovation Law Lab. “This is a watershed moment, a big step towards making inclusion, due process, and justice a reality for all Oregonians.” 

— 

To access Equity Corps services, start by finding a Community Navigator near you.

Read more about the Equity Corps’ novel representation model in this report “Defend Everyone: Creating the Equity Corps of Oregon to Provide Universal Representation.” 

Equity Corps of Oregon legal service providers include Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Immigration Legal Services, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Immigrant Defense Oregon of Metropolitan Public Defender, Immigration Counseling Service, Innovation Law Lab, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, and Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Community navigation organizations include El Programa Hispano, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Latino Network, and Pueblo Unido.  

The Universal Representation Committee of Oregon Ready is comprised of representatives from Causa, Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Immigration Legal Services, Immigrant Defense Oregon of Metropolitan Public Defender, Immigration Counseling Service, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Innovation Law Lab, Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Navigating Community Organization Pueblo Unido, and Transformative Immigration Law Class at Lewis & Clark Law School.

Trump’s “Remain In Mexico” Policy To Go Before the U.S. Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 30, 2019

San Francisco, CA ー On Tuesday, October 01, 2019, oral arguments will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the matter of Innovation Law Lab v. McAleenan, a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s policy of forcing thousands of asylum seekers to remain in Mexico until the conclusion of their removal proceedings before a U.S. immigration court. 

In bringing the lawsuit, Innovation Law Lab and its co-plaintiffs allege that Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the United States’ duty under domestic and international law to not return people to dangerous conditions. A federal court ruled in April that the policy is unlawful and temporarily blocked its implementation; the Ninth Circuit subsequently lifted the lower court’s injunction pending further court proceedings. Subsequently, multiple amicus briefs have been filed in support of plaintiffs, including briefs by current US Asylum Officers, former US government officials in the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

“The United States has a longstanding tradition of providing safe haven to people fleeing persecution,” Tess Hellgren, attorney at Innovation Law Lab, explained. “Over the years, Congress has enacted laws to implement our country’s international and humanitarian obligations. In violation of these laws, the Trump Administration’s policy traps asylum seekers in dangerous conditions and impairs their right to seek refuge.” 

Since the implementation of the policy in January, there has been documentation of widespread kidnappings, sexual violence, crime, homelessness, and illegal deportations of migrants trapped in untenable situations along the border. Advocates along the border also report that the policy has severely impeded asylum seekers’ access to legal representation, posing nearly insurmountable logistical barriers to retaining and communicating with legal counsel in the United States.  Many of those targeted by the cruel program are forced into homelessness in Mexico while they have families and friends ready, willing and able to house and support them in the United States.

“The federal government cruelly refers to this program as the ‘Migrant Protection Protocols.’ We call MPP by its more accurate name, the ‘Migrant Persecution Protocols,’” said PJ Podesta of Innovation Law Lab. “We hope the Ninth Circuit puts an end to this xenophobic, violent, and illegal policy, which has already caused immeasurable harm to individuals and families seeking protection and forced to remain in Mexico.”

This lawsuit is brought by Innovation Law Lab along with eleven individual plaintiffs and the Central American Resource Center of Northern California, Centro Legal de la Raza, the University of San Francisco School of Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic, Al Otro Lado, and the Tahirih Justice Center. Plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). 

MEDIA CONTACT
Ramon Valdez
971-238-1804
ramon@innovationlawlab.org

Federal Judge Reinstates Nationwide Injunction Preventing Asylum Transit Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 9, 2019

LAW LAB MEDIA CONTACT
Ramon Valdez; ramon@innovationlawlab.org; 971-238-1804

Oakland, CA 一 Today, a federal court restored a nationwide injunction which prevents the Trump Administration from denying asylum to those fleeing persecution if they passed through another country prior to reaching the United States. The court’s nationwide injunction had been issued on July 24, 2019. It was then upheld but narrowed in its scope by the Ninth Circuit of Appeals. “Today’s decision helps to prevent some of the chaos that has been created by this Administration’s complete disregard for the law,” said Jordan Cunnings, staff attorney at Innovation Law Lab.

In its decision, the federal court acknowledged that plaintiff organizations would, in fact, “suffer a variety of harms” if the asylum transit ban were allowed to go into effect outside of the Ninth Circuit.  For example, the court noted that Innovation Law Lab’s national programming, including its pro bono programs and pro se workshops for people fleeing persecution, would suffer in the absence of a nationwide injunction. The court also cited the need to maintain uniform immigration policy, the text of the Administrative Procedures Act, and the “major administrability issues” that would arise in a ban that applied only outside the Ninth Circuit. 

In its initial injunction, the court had analyzed the government’s rule against the overwhelming evidence — submitted by the Trump administration itself — that, in the court’s words documented “in exhaustive detail the ways in which those seeking asylum in Mexico are subject to violence and abuse from third parties and government officials, denied their rights under Mexican and international law, and wrongly returned to countries from which they fled persecution.” Notably, the court recognized that “even though this mountain of evidence points one way, the agencies went the other — with no explanation.”

“These reckless immigration policies, designed to circumvent asylum law, have dramatically and unnecessarily increased human suffering in North America,” said Ramon Valdez, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Innovation Law Lab. “Refugees deserve to be met with policies of compassion, not animosity.” 

Read the court’s decision here →

Support plaintiff organizations by donating here →

LAW LAB MEDIA CONTACT
Ramon Valdez; ramon@innovationlawlab.org; 971-238-1804

El Paso Immigration Collaborative (EPIC) Seeks to Change the Asylum Landscape for Detained Immigrants

Innovation Law Lab is proud to announce the launch of a new legal representation initiative called El Paso Immigration Collaborative (EPIC). EPIC is an initiative between multiple national and local organizations which aims to increase access to counsel for detained immigrants in El Paso, Texas and transform the ecosystem of courts and detention centers in the region.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s Asylum Transit Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 24, 2019 

San Francisco, CA 一 Today, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction preventing the Trump Administration from categorically denying asylum to people fleeing persecution who arrive at the U.S. southern border. The court found that the government’s new rule — the so-called asylum transit ban — would “categorically deny asylum to almost anyone entering the United States at the southern border”. Rejecting all of the administration’s major arguments, the court found that Innovation Law Lab, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, and CARECEN “are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Rule is substantively invalid.”

“We are grateful that the court has prevented this arbitrary and capricious new rule,” said Stephen W. Manning, Director at Innovation Law Lab. “Not only was the rule unlawful, it was an immoral attempt to push people fleeing persecution back into harm’s way.” Innovation Law Lab is a nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of technology and lawyers to defend persons fleeing persecution through its asylum defense projects in places such as California, Oregon, Tijuana, New Mexico, Georgia, Texas, and Missouri. 

In a powerfully worded opinion, the federal court held that the government’s new rule was “antithetical” to the asylum statute and “unmoored from the purposes and concerns” of the asylum statute. The Trump administration had argued that the new rule was lawful because it would not put individuals into danger and was consistent with the asylum statute.  The court rejected these arguments. The court found that the organizations — Innovation Law Lab, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, and CARECEN — would suffer harm if the rule were allowed to be implemented. The court reasoned that the asylum transit ban was inconsistent with the design and structure of the asylum statute. The new rule “does virtually nothing to ensure that a third country is a ‘safe option’” and that the government’s own records demonstrate “abundantly why Mexico is not a safe option for many refugees[.]”

The court analyzed the government’s rule against the overwhelming evidence — submitted by the Trump administration itself — that, in the court’s words documented “in exhaustive detail the ways in which those seeking asylum in Mexico are (1) subject to violence and abuse from third parties and government officials, (2) denied their rights under Mexican and international law, and (3) wrongly returned to countries from which they fled persecution.” Notably, the court recognized that “even though this mountain of evidence points one way, the agencies went the other — with no explanation.”

“This ruling is a decision that supports the rule of law and allows the United States to continue fulfilling its humanitarian responsibilities,” said Ramon Valdez, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Innovation Law Lab. “People fleeing persecution should not be returned to horrific violence.” The court today restored order to the orderly processing of applicants for asylum, Valdez explained. “Thanks to this decision, tomorrow, we can continue with our nation’s important work of respecting the right of refuge and welcoming families and children fleeing violence to safety.”

LAW LAB MEDIA CONTACT
Ramon Valdez; ramon@innovationlawlab.org; 971-238-1804

Innovation Law Lab Files Lawsuit to Challenge the Trump Administration’s Asylum Transit Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 16, 2019

San Francisco, CA 一 Innovation Law Lab, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, and Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s latest attack on asylum and people fleeing persecution.  The organizations are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Constitutional Rights. The lawsuit, filed before the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, charges the administration with violating U.S. and international law. 

“This horrific new rule is but the latest chapter in the Trump Administration’s hate-fueled campaign against refugees and immigrants of color”, says Ian Philabaum, Program Director at Innovation Law Lab.

This new rule intends to block people fleeing persecution from seeking safety and lawfully  applying for asylum in the United States. Federal immigration law requires that the person be physically present in order to apply for asylum. Under the new rule, individuals who did not apply for asylum in the countries through which they traveled would not be eligible to request asylum in the United States; regardless of their physical presence. This shift in policy comes after the Trump Administration failed to reach a proposed “safe third country” agreement with Guatemala.

The Trump Administration’s dangerous and blatantly unlawful new rule ignores the fact that many countries in the Americas through which asylum-seekers travel do not meet the international standards required to enter a safe third-country agreement. Individuals who flee dangerous situations by land are often unable to apply for asylum prior to arriving to the United States’ southern border due to well-documented violence against migrants and the looming risk of refoulement, the legal term for being returned to a place where you may be persecuted. 

Innovation Law Lab is a nonprofit organization that uses technology, collaboration, and constitutional principles to empower lawyers and volunteers to provide effective representation to immigrants in hostile judicial jurisdictions and detention centers so that every claim that should win, does win, every time, everywhere. The vast majority of those served by Innovation Law Lab are asylum seekers.

This new policy will require Innovation Law Lab to divert its limited resources in order to entirely rework its large-scale pro bono legal representation projects, templates, guides, training videos, self-help videos, and other resources used by attorneys around the country. This new policy would also require Innovation Law Lab to divert its limited engineering resources to recode its software in order to create new analytical modeling. “Every single one of the Law Lab’s existing programs will be significantly affected, irrevocably damaged, and immediately diverted by the new rule”, stated Stephen Manning, Executive Director of Innovation Law Lab. 

LAW LAB MEDIA CONTACT
Ramon Valdez; ramon@innovationlawlab.org; 971-238-1804

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