Human Rights First Files to Fight Rule that Guts Asylum Protection

WASHINGTON — Today, Human Rights First, alongside counsel at Williams & Connolly, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s sweeping new anti-refugee regulation, which will gut protections for those seeking asylum and make it virtually impossible for refugees to secure asylum in the United States.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States federal district court in Washington, D.C., asks the court to intervene and stop the government from enforcing the rule, which is scheduled to take effect on January 11, 2021.

“This rule seeks to end asylum in the United States as we know it. Over the past four years, this administration has employed an array of tools in the hope of dismantling the legal protections Congress provided for refugees and asylum seekers,” said Hardy Vieux, Human Rights First’s senior vice presidentlegal. “Human Rights First is heading back to federal court to dash that hope. And to affirm that Congress sought to protect people fleeing persecution, not demonize them incessantly, even in the waning days of an administration long consumed with denying protection to those most in need of it. This holiday season, and every season, we shall continue to exalt the rule of law.”

Human Rights First v. Wolf et. al. challenges the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice’s rule, rammed through in the waning days of the Trump administration.  The complaint in Human Rights First v. Wolf et. al. can be found here.

Human Rights First, an organizational plaintiff in the suit, argues that the rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Administrative Procedure Act, international law, and the United States Constitution. In its complaint, Human Rights First argues, “If allowed to stand, the rule will eviscerate the ability of noncitizens fleeing persecution to obtain asylum and related relief in the United States. The United States will instead send refugees back to countries where they face persecution, torture, and possible death—the very outcome Congress expressly designed the INA to avoid.”

The rule, which fundamentally rewrites United States asylum law, will illegally render the majority of asylum seekers ineligible for asylum while tilting every phase of the asylum process in favor of denial and deportation. The rule also upends the procedures for asylum adjudication, further limiting procedural protections for refugees seeking protection in the United States.

The United States government is attempting to make it impossible for our asylum-seeking clients to secure protection. Many of Human Rights First’s clients who have already been granted asylum would, under the rule, be denied protection. One Human Rights First asylum-seeking client stated, “[I]t really disappoints me to learn that the United States, a country [I] have looked up to as a beacon of freedom, is trying to put people like me in harm’s way. I fear for my safety.”

Through this lawsuit, Human Rights First is standing up for the rights of asylum seekers like our clients. Human Rights First’s comments this past summer opposing the draft rule are here.

Human Rights First provides pro bono legal representation for refugees seeking asylum in the United States, in partnership with volunteer lawyers at many of the nation’s leading law firms.  Our refugee clients have fled persecution in Cameroon, China, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Eritrea, Honduras, Iraq, Nicaragua, Syria, Venezuela, and other countries where their lives and freedom are at risk.


Published on December 21, 2020


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