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Court strikes down policy denying asylum to migrants fleeing violence

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Migrants fleeing violence in their country should be allowed to apply for asylum in the United States, a court ruled Wednesday. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI
Migrants fleeing violence in their country should be allowed to apply for asylum in the United States, a court ruled Wednesday. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The Trump administration's policy to deny asylum to migrants fleeing domestic or gang violence is "arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the immigration laws," a U.S. District of Columbia Court ruled Wednesday.

The case involves 12 plaintiffs who told U.S. asylum officers stories of sexual abuse, kidnappings and beatings in their home countries. The officers found their stories sincere but when they applied the new policy by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the migrants' entry into the country was denied, according to the lawsuit.

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The policy, implemented in June, required migrants to show their home government condoned the violence against them while being helpless to protect them. Also under the policy, the credible fear interviews could only take into account where the migrant is physically located with no consideration for where they came from.

"This ruling is a defeat for the Trump administration's all-out assault on the rights of asylum seekers," said Jennifer Chang Newell, managing attorney for the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "The government's attempt to obliterate asylum protections is unlawful and inconsistent with our country's longstanding commitment to provide protection to immigrants fleeing for their lives."

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The ACLU brought the suit along with the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.

The court ordered the federal government to grant anyone who had been illegally deported under this policy to be allowed to return at no expense to them.

"It is the will of Congress -- not the whims of the executive -- that determines the standard for expedited removal, the court finds that those policies are unlawful," the court ruled. "The court further permanently enjoins the government from continuing to apply those policies and from removing plaintiffs who are currently in the United States without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with immigration laws."

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The plaintiffs say the Trump administration policies caused "irreparable harm" and should be granted a permanent injunction in this case.

"Plaintiffs do not seek monetary compensation," the judgment said. "The harm they suffer will continue unless and until they receive a credible fear determination pursuant to the existing immigration laws."

The court also cites the Nken v. Holder case from 2009, in which the Supreme Court determined that "there is a public interest in preventing aliens from being wrongfully removed, particularly to countries where they are likely to face substantial harm."

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Children of the migrant caravan

Asylum Seekers in the United States
Albert Yared stands near the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown San Diego on Saturday. Albert traveled with his parents in the migrant caravan from Honduras hoping to seek asylum in the U.S., crossing from Tijuana to San Diego on December 21. They spent their first night in CBP custody, but are now wearing ankle bracelets and headed to Mississippi where they hope to begin their new lives. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI

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