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COURT TEMPORARILY HALTS HEALTH CARE BAN

DOWNLOAD THE ORDER HERE

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 

Civil Rights Coalition Halts Implementation of Presidential Proclamation Requiring Health Insurance

November 2, 2019  – Today, litigators from the Justice Action Center (JAC), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the Innovation Law Lab, with Sidley Austin LLP providing pro bono assistance, successfully halted implementation of the administration’s attempt to ban immigrants based on their ability to obtain health insurance upon arrival to the U.S. 

The temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR, has stopped the federal government from implementing the policy. This is not the end of the process as the court considers the full merits of the case, Doe v. Trump, in the coming days and weeks.

Carmen Rubio, Executive Director of Latino Network, a plaintiff in the case said, “We are encouraged by the court’s decision to issue the TRO that we requested along with the other plaintiffs across the country.  Today’s decision highlights the urgency of blocking this health care ban before it causes irreparable damage to our community and those we serve. We know that our fight is far from over, we will be steadfast in our work to ensure that we end family separation, ensure the dignity and rights of our community are respected, and hold this administration accountable to our nation’s constitution.”  

Stephen Manning, Executive Director of Innovation Law Lab, noted, “Oregon’s and our nation’s collective prosperity depends on the rule of law; the court’s decision protects the rule of law and families across the nation by halting President Trump’s harmful proclamation.”

“We’re very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the health care ban immediately,” says Justice Action Center Senior Litigator Esther Sung, who argued at today’s hearing on behalf of the plaintiffs. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped. It’s egregious that President Trump is attempting to flout the will of Congress and squeeze through a complete overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws without anyone noticing. Our fight will continue — we will stand with our plaintiffs and all immigrants to challenge this unjust health care ban.”

Jesse Bless, Director of Federal Litigation at AILA said, “We applaud the court’s ruling; countless thousands across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today because the court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted in the absence of a TRO. This proclamation would permanently separate families and damage employers; it is a clear violation of the constitution. The president simply does not have the authority to rewrite the law by proclamation.” 

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

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

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

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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