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Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump Asylum Policies for Domestic and Gang Violence Victims

In a recent ruling, a federal judge struck down several portions of the Justice Department’s policies, which made it more challenging for non-citizens to claim asylum due to domestic or gang violence. The judge ruled on the basis that the “expedited removal” policies violated existing immigration law.


The policies were originally ordered by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June 2018. Sessions stated that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence is not an acceptable reason for granting asylum protections to non-citizens.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of 12 adults and children who were seeking asylum. According to the ACLU, the non-citizens, who are predominantly women from Central America, had experienced extensive sexual and physical violence in their home countries. They feared for the safety of themselves and their young children and sought refuge in the U.S. Although they were deemed “credible” by asylum officers, under the new guidelines, they did not meet the criteria for a “credible fear of persecution” in their countries of origin. They were then placed in a summary deportation proceeding known as “expedited removal.”


On December 19, 2018, Judge Emmett Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that the Justice Department’s policies were “arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the immigration laws.” According to NBC, in his 107-page decision, Judge Sullivan wrote that the policies are unlawful because the determination of the standard for removal is decided by Congress, rather than “the whims of the Executive.”


Judge Sullivan’s decision permanently blocks the federal government from applying these policies and from deporting the plaintiffs who are currently in the U.S. without first providing credible fear determinations consistent with immigration laws. The court ordered the government to return the plaintiffs who were unlawfully deported under these policies back to the U.S. so that they could continue to pursue their claims for asylum. Each individual is to receive a new credible fear interview and their expedited removal orders have been canceled.


If you or a loved one is contemplating applying for asylum protection or are seeking to appeal an adverse asylum decision, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer. The immigration lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP have successfully represented hundreds of asylum applicants, from uncomplicated first-time applicants to individuals already in removal proceedings. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our New York immigration lawyers, call (212) 267-2555 or fill out our contact form.

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The immigration consequences of criminal or fraudulent conduct can be harsh and often illogical. Even a very minor offense could have a dramatic immigration consequence, including deportation, detention without bond, being denied naturalization, a visa or re-entry into the United States. Likewise, the use of fake or fraudulent documents, aliases, and other misrepresentations can have similar immigration consequences. Kerry Bretz and Bretz & Coven have been counseling non-citizen criminal defendants, as well as their lawyers, for over 20 years. We have a long history of strategizing deportation and removal defenses, as well as applications for waivers, in very complicated cases.

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