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ImmDef v. DHS


On January 14th, 2021, Immigrants’ rights groups representing unaccompanied migrant children SUED the Trump administration for violating the fundamental statutory and constitutional rights of their child clients.


We are proud to join as organizational plaintiffs along with our partners at RAICES Texas, ProBAR (a project of the American Bar Association), and The Door (a New York-based nonprofit).


We are represented by litigators from ImmDef and Justice Action Center, with pro bono support from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. 


The message of ImmDef v. DHS is simple:⁠⠀

All unaccompanied minor children deserve protection no matter how they came here. ⁠⁠⠀

On the evening on January 14th, immigrants’ rights groups representing unaccompanied migrant children sued the Trump administration for violating the fundamental statutory and constitutional rights of their child clients. The organizational plaintiffs are the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef, based in California) and RAICES (based in Texas) working alongside the Justice Action Center (JAC), and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP.

Over the past two years, the Trump Administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” has sent more than 69,000 asylum seekers — including many babies and children — to some of the most dangerous places in Mexico. Many face violence and trauma while awaiting immigration proceedings in these cities, including rape and abduction according to a report published last week by Human Rights Watch. Out of desperation, and often due to circumstances beyond their control, some children cross the border alone, in hopes that they will be safer in U.S. custody.


Once these unaccompanied children are in the United States, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) is supposed to protect them by creating a system that enables them to seek asylum in the United States, guaranteeing an immigration hearing before they are removed, and setting out child-specific protections to take into account the special needs of children who are alone. 

At least 500 (and maybe even thousands) unaccompanied children who have been detained in government facilities and previously interacted with MPP are at risk of being deported by the Department of Homeland Security without having their day in court — in other words, they don’t get a non-adversarial asylum hearing from a child-centered lens, never mind a regular immigration court hearing.


The federal government has been denying and violating the protections afforded by TVPRA to these unaccompanied children, if they have ever had any interaction with any part of MPP, even if brief.

CBS interviewed Soni and the family of our 12-year-old client who faces deportation because he was previously in the Remain in Mexico Program with his mother. After being abducted for two weeks, he had no choice but to enter the United States alone as an unaccompanied child for protection. Thanks to our legal staff's fearless efforts, we were able to reunite our client with his grandparents.



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Case documents

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