EBSC Lead Plaintiff in New Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s Attacks on Asylum

July 16, 2019CONTACT:

Lisa Gano, EBSC, 510-540-5296, ext. 111, lisa.gano@eastbaysanctuary.org

SAN FRANCISCO — Plaintiffs led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), including East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) in Berkeley, filed a federal lawsuit against Attorney General William Barr, in his official capacity, James McHenry, Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, and others in the Trump administration in an attempt to halt a new policy disqualifying asylum seekers who transit through a third country (Mexico) before reaching the United States.

Our lawsuit, EBSC v. Barr, charges that the Trump administration lacks the authority to exclude asylum seekers who arrive across the U.S. southern border, who are clearly protected under U.S. immigration law. Under the new rule, virtually all asylum seekers from Central America would be ineligible to apply for asylum in the U.S.

The complaint states, “As part of our nation’s commitment to the protection of people fleeing persecution and consistent with our international obligations, it is a long-standing federal law that merely transiting through a third country is not a basis to categorically deny asylum to refugees who arrive at our shores.”

“President Trump’s attack on asylum law is illegal and a usurpation of the power of Congress to make our laws. It is ignorant of this administration to think that these people are not deserving of legal asylum — over 97% of our asylum clients are approved by the U.S. government, proving that their claims are meritorious. Moreover, our clients who have fled violence in their home countries are not safe in Guatemala or Mexico,” says EBSC Managing Attorney, Kaveena Singh.

Michael Smith, director of Refugee Rights for EBSC, added, “This is but the latest attempt by the Trump administration to categorically deny asylum to people fleeing violence. EBSC was founded in 1982 as part of the sanctuary movement when President Reagan said that Central Americans did not qualify for asylum because they only came for economic reasons, when the reality was that they were fleeing terrible civil wars and even genocide. Since then, EBSC has assisted people from more than 60 countries fleeing atrocious forms of persecution, including victims of gender-based violence, indigenous Guatemalans, LGBT individuals, and unaccompanied children. The ACLU recognized how critical EBSC’s work is in helping to block this policy.”

As with the administration’s previous attacks on asylum law, the current policy would have a huge and detrimental impact on many hundreds of Bay Area asylum applicants who are seeking a legal route to safety. These asylum seekers deserve safety and protection under U.S. and international asylum law.

EBSC reaffirms our commitment to support people’s fundamental human right to seek asylum.

The complaint can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/complaint-5