Attorney General James Fights Trump Admin's Efforts To Undermine Asylum Protections

Attorney General James Fights Trump Admin’s
Efforts to Undermine Asylum Protections

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, as part of a coalition of 19 attorneys general from around the nation, today challenged the Trump Administration’s efforts to potentially undermine asylum protections for thousands of immigrants. In an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs in U.T. v. Barr, Attorney General James and the coalition push back against an interim final rule in which the Trump Administration is effectively ignoring asylum claims by sending people — many of whom are fleeing violence and persecution — to third countries that have signed asylum cooperative agreements with the federal government. Not only does the rule harm asylum-seekers, but it deprives states of the valuable economic contributions made by immigrants — including asylees and asylum-seekers — who join workforces across the country, start entrepreneurial ventures, and pay millions of dollars in taxes each year.

“The president and his Administration are once again showing their lack of compassion and humanity by endangering the safety of asylum-seekers fleeing for their lives,” said Attorney General James. “Instead of making it harder for immigrants to flee persecution, danger, and great peril, the Administration should be welcoming these individuals, who provide extraordinary contributions to America’s culture and economy. Our coalition will continue fighting for these asylum-seekers and the founding principles of our nation which have always welcomed immigrants.”

In the amicus brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the coalition highlights the irreparable harms the rule will have on states and asylum-seekers. In particular, the rule threatens the states’ economies, undermines state-funded legal service programs, and contravenes the states’ interests in keeping families together. Collectively, the coalition welcomes thousands of asylum-seekers each year and the rule directly threatens these individuals by forcing them into dangerous circumstances in third countries that are not equipped to handle their claims. For example, Guatemala — currently the only country where an asylum cooperative agreement is officially in effect — has insufficient staff to handle all the humanitarian claims necessary as a result of the Trump Administration rule. There are currently only 12 officials working on asylum cases in the entire country, and only three of them are tasked with interviewing applicants.

Today’s brief is just the most recent in a number of actions Attorney General James has taken to safeguard asylum protections for immigrants. Last month, Attorney General James fought back against a similar Trump Administration rule that will bar tens of thousands of people from asylum if they do not apply in a third country while en route to the United States. In an amicus brief — filed in support of the plaintiffs in Al Otro Lada, et al. v. Wolf — Attorney General James and a coalition of 20 additional attorneys general argue in support of asylum-seekers who have already been trapped at the border for months due to other unlawful policies of the Administration that Attorney General James and the coalition have also opposed.

Additionally, in October 2019, Attorney General James fought back against another illegal rule that similarly 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 in support of the American Civil Liberties Union in the lawsuit 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.

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