Washington D.C., Sep 10, 2019 / 11:08 am
A Catholic group is suing the Trump administration over the restriction of protections granted to asylum seekers in the U.S.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Democracy Forward, and Proskauer Rose LLP filed a lawsuit Sept. 6 arguing that the Trump administration’s new policies violate the statutory rights of asylum seekers and were issued without notice.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for D.C., also argues that the new policies were issued invalidly by Ken Cuccinnelli, who the groups claim was appointed unlawfully as head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). U.S. President Donald Trump appointed Cuccinnelli as “acting director” of USCIS after it became clear that the Senate was unlikely to confirm him as permanent director.
Cuccinnelli recently announced new measures cutting in half the amount of time granted to asylum seekers as they prepare for their interviews. Previously, those seeking asylum were granted 48 hours to meet with a lawyer and collect evidence to make their argument that they have a credible fear of persecution if they return to their homeland, a key step in their application for asylum. Now, they will have 24 hours to prepare for the interview.
In addition, continuances will largely be eliminated for those with language barriers or other claims to need more time to prepare.
These new policies deny asylum seekers reasonable access to counsel, says the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of seven asylum seekers and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit legal services group for immigrants in Texas.
Manoj Govindaiah, director of legal strategy and training for RAICES, argued that the policy changes are intentional as part of an effort to reduce the number of people seeking protection from persecution in the United States.
“These unlawful changes to longstanding policy were undertaken to ensure that asylum seekers have no true opportunity to seek refuge in the United States,” Govindaiah said.