Attorney General  James Takes Legal Action To Protect Asylum Seekers

Attorney General  James Takes Legal Action 
to Protect Asylum Seekers

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today fought back in opposition to a Trump Administration rule that illegally limits immigrants’ access to the asylum process. Under the rule, individuals entering the United States at the southern border — except in limited circumstances — would no longer be able to seek asylum unless they apply for and are denied protection in at least one country they transited through prior to their arrival at the U.S. border. In an amicus brief filed today in support of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union — East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr — Attorney General James and 22 additional attorneys general from around the nation urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to uphold a district court ruling imposing a preliminary injunction on the rule.

“America has always stood as a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge from war and terror at home, and, under our watch, we will fight to ensure that we stay true to who we are as a nation,” said Attorney General James. “While children and families flee persecution, the Trump Administration continues to use them as pawns in their game of political chess. The message embodied by the Statue of Liberty is clear: ‘from her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.’ This country is open to all, not just those the president and his Administration deem acceptable.”

Following up on a comment letter submitted in August opposing the rule, the coalition of attorneys general argue in the brief that the rule would significantly depart from core values enshrined in federal law and that it would specifically harm asylum-seekers. The states in the coalition welcome and benefit from asylum seekers, and, in promulgating the rule, the Trump Administration failed to provide adequate notice in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The rule would force asylum-seekers to go through what could amount to a fruitless asylum process in a potentially dangerous third country, just to have a chance of being eligible for asylum in the United States. This not only would unnecessarily subject asylum-seekers to peril and trauma throughout the process, but could also encourage immigrants to attempt risky journeys to enter the United States undetected in an effort to flee persecution. Moreover, the rule would have a particularly negative effect on unaccompanied children, LGBTQ+ applicants, and female asylum-seekers — for whom applying for asylum in a third country is extremely perilous. 

For instance, two-thirds of LGBTQ+ Central American asylum-seekers reportedly suffered sexual violence while transiting through Mexico. And, in Guatemala, children are frequently targeted for recruitment by criminal gangs. In addition, the rule would cause state agencies and non-profits to divert resources to address the added trauma asylum-seekers will suffer because of precarious conditions in third countries, while forcing states to lose out on the economic contributions of those who might otherwise have been welcomed into the United States.  

Joining Attorney General James in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District Of Columbia.

In a September decision, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a nationwide preliminary injunction pending subsequent proceedings that are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.