Resources on Asylum and Refugee Law

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CLINIC submitted comments on an Interim Final Regulation issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that allows the United States to send asylum seekers at the southern border to countries with which the United States has entered into “asylum cooperative agreements.” These countries—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—are among the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere and do not have government infrastructure to handle thousands of additional asylum claims.

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In September 2019, Defendants enacted new written policies designed to dismantle longstanding protections for asylum seekers who, like Plaintiffs, were targeted for persecution in their home countries because they are members of a particular family. These new policies deprive non-citizens in expedited removal proceedings of a meaningful opportunity to obtain asylum or withholding of removal based on their membership in a family-based particular social group (“PSG”)

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CLINIC submitted comments in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) proposed regulation entitled “Removal of 30-Day Processing Provision for Asylum Seekers’ Initial  Employment Authorization Document Applications,” DHS Docket No. USCIS-2018-0001, RIN 1615-AC19. In this proposed regulation, which was posted on Sept. 9, 2019, DHS seeks to eliminate the rule, which requires it to process initial employment authorization documents (EADs) for asylum applicants within 30 days.

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This manual is designed to assist attorneys and accredited representatives in representing asylees and refugees to reunify with family members and seek lawful status for family already in the United States. The manual gives an overview of applicable laws, regulations, and guidance concerning the I-730 petition process. It also provides practical information on how to navigate the application process from completing the form I-730, to compiling evidence, to troubleshooting with government agencies.

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The USCIS Asylum Office’s Credible Fear Lesson Plan is designed to train asylum officers and set forth standards to be followed when conducting credible fear interviews. CLINIC analyzed changes to the 2019 USCIS Asylum Office’s Credible Fear Lesson Plan and added them to a comparison chart AILA had previously created outlining changes among the 2006, 2014, and 2017 Lesson Plans.  The comparison chart includes analysis from all three lesson plans with a summary of the 2019 changes.

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President Trump issued an Executive Order13888 on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement, or the “Executive Order”, on Sept. 26 that will allow states and localities to restrict the resettlement of refugee in their areas.

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In a continued assault on U.S. asylum protections, the Trump administration has recently issued a number of new regulations and policies aimed at barring or restricting asylum eligibility for most asylum seekers. This article summarizes and provides updates on eight such efforts from the Trump administration: (1) the July 2019 third country transit bar; (2) the November 2018 asylum ban; (3) the attorney general’s July 2019 decision purporting to restrict asylum claims based on family membership; (4) the U.S.

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On Aug. 15, 260 faith organizations and leaders from across traditions submitted a joint public comment opposing an interim final rule that denies access to asylum to people who have passed through any other country before arriving at the southern border, requiring them to have applied for asylum in at least one country they passed through in order to ask for safety in the United States.

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On July 31, 2019, CLINIC joined eight other organizations that serve survivors of gender-based violence to submit an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.

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On July 29, 2019 the attorney general issued a decision, Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I&N Dec. 581 (A.G. 2019), overturning the part of the 2017 Board of Immigration Appeals decision in this case discussing whether Mr. L-E-A-’s proposed particular social group is cognizable. While the attorney general’s decision uses sweeping language about family-based particular social groups, the holding essentially states that each claim must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

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Check out CLINIC's answers to frequently asked questions on third country transit regulations.

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This guide provides attorneys and fully accredited representatives with strategies and best practices for representing asylum seekers with in absentia removal orders. The guide was originally released in 2016 and updated in July 2019. CLINIC and the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) prepared the guide in 2016 after representing dozens of families who received in absentia removal orders and successfully reopening their cases in the wake of increased enforcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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CLINIC, along with Kids In Need of Defense, or KIND, Public Counsel, and Goodwin Procter on July 1, 2019, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The suit challenges a new policy that limits the ability to seek asylum for certain children who arrived in the country alone. The lawsuit alleges that the policy by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services violates the plaintiffs' rights under the 5th Amendment, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

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CLINIC joined 30 human rights organizations in calling on Attorney General Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary McAleenan to refrain from adopting proposed regulations set forth in an April 2019 White House Memorandum.

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CLINIC filed suit on Nov. 22, 2019 challenging the implementation of the attorney general’s July 29, 2019 decision, Matter of L-E-A-, 27 I&N Dec. 581 (A.G. 2019), in the expedited removal context in credible and reasonable fear interviews. That decision overturned the part of the 2017 Board of Immigration Appeals decision in this case discussing whether Mr. L-E-A-’s proposed particular social group is cognizable.

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Refugee and asylum law is largely a matter that impacts and is impacted by the international community, given the delicate nature of accepting aliens from other countries who are at risk of being persecuted. The obligations of the U.S. in this realm are defined by The 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which have been incorporated into domestic law.

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Pursuant to directives from the Trump Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been shutting its doors to asylum seekers who present themselves at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. These directives have resulted in thousands of individuals seeking asylum under U.S. law stranded on the Mexican side of the border. Practitioners should therefore consider and prepare for potential DHS firm resettlement arguments against asylum seekers who are forced to remain in Mexico before ultimately gaining access to the U.S. asylum system.

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On March 12, 2019 CLINIC, joined by other faith-based organizations, submitted an amicus brief to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the case O.L.B.D. v. Barr. In this case, Ms. O.L.B.D., a survivor of severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse by her ex-husband, appeals the Board of Immigration Appeals denial of her asylum claim. The case presents a direct challenge to Matter of A-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), the decision Jeff Sessions issued last summer which sought to greatly limit asylum eligibility for survivors of domestic violence and gang violence.

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As co-counsel to Mr. L-E-A-, CLINIC attorneys filed this brief with the Justice Department on Feb. 19, 2019. The client’s name and other identifying information has been redacted.

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The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, released its new Migrant Protection Protocols, or Remain in Mexico Policy, on Jan. 24. The new policy sets out procedures to return asylum-seekers to Mexico to wait while their asylum case is pending in the U.S. immigration court system. There are still many unanswered questions about this effort to thwart asylum seekers, but this is what we know so far.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shut its doors at the San Ysidro port of entry in mid-Novemeber of 2018, claiming that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lacked the capacity to process fear claims in light of the arrival of the Central American migrant caravan. The “Exodus” members – more than 5,000 Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans — were greeted with hostility and ad hoc restrictions that prevented their ability to seek asylum. This has created a two-month long bottleneck at the U.S.-Mexico border, a humanitarian crisis and a watershed moment in U.S.

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The government recently issued two parallel guidance memos following a decision by District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan in Grace v. Whitaker.

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On Jan. 8, 2019, CLINIC joined 150 nonprofit organizations to submit a joint public comment opposing the interim final rule restricting asylum for some migrants at the border. This rule has the objective of restricting asylum protections for individuals seeking entry to the United States at places other than official ports of entry. The comment calls on the agency to withdraw the rule due to it being a violation of U.S. and international law as well as going against our moral values.

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On Dec. 17, 2018, the district court for the District of Columbia, in Grace v. Whitaker, struck down the administration’s new credible fear policies. On June 11, 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision in Matter of A-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 227 (A.G. 2018), where he attempted to fundamentally change the legal requirements for asylum eligibility.

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The ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a request for an injunction in the Northern California District Court in the case of East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Trump.  The district court granted a temporary restraining order on November 20, 2018.  This ruling temporarily enjoins (or stops) the government from enforcing the Asylum Ban, temporarily, until December 19, 2018 when the court will decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction. The questions and answers below discuss what the Asylum Ban will do if the judge does not extend the injunction or if the government appeals the injunction and the district court order is lifted.

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This section of the toolkit includes resources to help you represent asylum applicant clients.

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The notes below were issued by the Asylum Division and are available online.

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CLINIC Senior Attorney Victoria Neilson and Central American Legal Assistance (CALA) Senior Staff Attorney Heather Axford drafted this sample brief that practitioners can use to respond to immigration judges who demand that the asylum seeker state the particular social group(s) at a master calendar hearing as a prerequisite to scheduling the individual hearing.

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As the future of DACA recipients remains uncertain, practitioners who work with DACA recipients should explore permanent relief options for this vulnerable population. Many DACA recipients are LGBTI and this advisory discusses LGBTI claims for asylum, withholding or removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture, with an emphasis on claims from the top five DACA countries.

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The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., filed an amicus brief April 27 challenging Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to insert himself into a settled immigration case, the Matter of A-B. The attorney general’s unusual move could result in changes to long-settled immigration policy, making it harder for many asylum seekers -- notably those fleeing religion-based persecution – to obtain protection in the United States.

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The Trump Administration’s September 5, 2017 DACA rescission has left DACA recipients in limbo and prompted many questions on what comes next for this vulnerable population. Practitioners representing DACA recipients must consider permanent relief options in each DACA client’s case and prepare for the possibility of removal proceedings. These practice advisories provide practitioners guidance on immigration law matters relevant to DACA recipients.

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The U.S. government has issued in absentia removal orders to a large number of families primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These families fled persecution and sought safety in the United States often proving they had a credible fear of returning to their home country.

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People seeking asylum and/or withholding of removal in the United States, who are either in expedited removal or reinstatement of removal proceedings, must go through a screening process with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officer. After the screening process is complete, with a positive outcome, an asylum applicant can make a formal request for asylum and/or withholding of removal with an immigration judge. Asylum officers are trained to do protection screening interviews from lesson plans that set forth standards to be followed when conducting these interviews.

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This guide is designed to give service providers the tools and information needed to address the barriers to resettlement and integration faced by asylees and to better assist their clients.

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The Board of Immigration Appeals, or BIA, recently issued a decision, Matter of W-Y-C- & H-O-B, 27 I&N Dec. 189 (BIA 2018), that requires asylum applicants in removal proceedings to clearly delineate on the record before the immigration judge, or IJ, the “particular social group” in which they claim membership. The BIA further held that it would not consider newly proposed particular social groups on appeal that were not presented before the immigration judge. 

 

Background

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Expedited removal is a process that allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, to order a non-citizen removed without providing an opportunity for a hearing before an immigration judge, or IJ. CBP has the power to issue an expedited removal order if the non-citizen arrives at a port of entry without proper documents, or is apprehended within 100 miles of the border within 14 days of entry and lacks proper documents.

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In an effort discourage asylum claims from DACA and TPS holders, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Jan. 31, 2018, that it was changing the way the agency schedules asylum interviews. Instead of adjudicating them on a “first-in, first-out” basis, it would revert to a prior “last-in, first-out” basis, which is the way they scheduled cases from 1995 to 2014.

 

Background

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