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Statement: Asylum Seekers Seek Emergency Relief As Battle Over “Remain in Mexico” Policy Continues

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

For Immediate Release

November 3, 2021 CONTACT: Marion Steinfels, Southern Poverty Law Center, 202-557-0430, marion.steinfels@splcenter.org Arianna Rosales, National Immigration Project, (202) 524-9121, arianna@nipnlg.org Alex Mensing, Innovation Law Lab, 619-432-6378, alexm@innovationlawlab.org

Los Angeles, CA – Six asylum seekers subjected to the “Remain in Mexico” policy are seeking an emergency order from a federal court allowing them to return to the United States to pursue their claims for asylum and related relief. Each of the individuals received a final order of removal as a result of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, either because they were prevented from attending their immigration hearings or because they were unable to fully and fairly present their claims.


In addition to denying these individuals access to the U.S. asylum process, the government has forced these individuals, all of whom are plaintiffs in Immigrant Defenders Law Center, et al. v. Mayorkas, to live in danger, facing violence and discrimination daily.


The lawsuit, filed in October 2020 and amended in August 2021, seeks to facilitate the return to the United States, with appropriate public health measures, of these individual asylum-seeking plaintiffs and others similarly situated, for a period sufficient to prepare and file their motions to reopen and, if successful, pursue their claims for asylum. It also seeks to facilitate the work of legal service organizations that represent individuals subjected to the Remain in Mexico policy. In addition to the six asylum-seeking individuals subjected to Remain in Mexico, the suit was brought on behalf of Immigrant Defenders Law Center and Jewish Family Service of San Diego.


Below are comments from the groups involved in the case:


"There's an arsenal of evidence that the Remain in Mexico policy is a human rights failure. This policy has not only caused harm to thousands of people but also stripped asylum seekers of their due process rights by exposing them to unnecessary danger, kidnapping, abuse and murder. Our government can and should restore people's right to pursue asylum with safety and meaningful access to legal services in the United States." -Munmeeth Soni, Litigation and Advocacy Director, Immigrant Defenders Law Center


“The horrors of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program continue to inhumanely and cruelly impact the lives of thousands of individuals stranded in Mexico, including the individual asylum-seeking plaintiffs in this lawsuit. Every day these vulnerable individuals, in desperate need of protection, face significant and incomprehensible circumstances. JFS San Diego will continue to live out its value of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’ and continue its critical work unless and until each person forcibly returned to Mexico under Remain in Mexico is granted entry into the U.S.” - Luis Gonzalez, Managing Immigration Attorney, Jewish Family Service of San Diego


“Amidst political posturing in Washington, Texas, and elsewhere, Remain in Mexico has jeopardized the lives of asylum seekers, deprived them of a fair day in court, and relegated them to legal limbo. Enough is enough. These individuals must be given a meaningful opportunity to access legal representation and seek protection from inside the United States. After the hell they have endured at the hands of the U.S. government, nothing less is acceptable.” -Melissa Crow, Senior Supervising Attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center

“For nearly three years, the Remain in Mexico policy has endangered the lives of tens of thousands of people, including the six asylum seeking plaintiffs in this lawsuit. The Biden administration must do more than undo this unlawful policy; it must also move swiftly to provide every individual harmed through this policy access to legal representation and a meaningful opportunity to pursue their asylum claims from inside the United States." - Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

“The 'Remain in Mexico' policy always was and always will be about keeping individuals seeking refuge out of the United States, no matter the cost to human life, due process, or our values. That does not represent our vision for a welcoming, inclusive, and better society. The program has resulted in a 98% denial rate for asylum seekers and exposed them to countless acts of violence and discrimination during their proceedings. Our plaintiffs, like thousands of other people subjected to this inhumane policy, should have a real chance to pursue their asylum claims in safety and with the support of counsel, from inside the United States.” -Tess Hellgren, Deputy Legal Director, Innovation Law Lab


A copy of the filing can be found here: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/157-1.pdf

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Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) was founded in 1918 and since then has remained committed to the ever-changing needs of immigrants coming to our community and to the San Diego-Tijuana border. JFS works to ensure that vulnerable individuals receive the benefits and legal protections United States law affords, including the right to counsel. Through integrated services, such as legal assistance and asylum seeker transition services, JFS empowers people of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds to overcome challenges, set goals, and build more stable, secure, and connected lives. To get help, volunteer or support JFS, visit www.jfssd.org.

Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) is a next-generation 501(c)3 social justice law firm that defends our immigrant communities against injustices in the immigration court system. We believe that the right to counsel in deportation proceedings is a necessary step towards ensuring due process for all. Our model of universal representation is built on this principle. It is our long-term goal to ensure that no immigrant is forced to go to court alone.


The Southern Poverty Law Center is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit membership organization of lawyers, law students, legal workers, advocates, and jailhouse lawyers working to defend and extend the rights of all noncitizens in the United States, regardless of immigration status. We pursue all forms of legal advocacy on behalf of immigrants and provide technical assistance and support to legal practitioners, community-based immigrant organizations, and advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. Learn more at nipnlg.org. Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter.


Innovation Law Lab, based in Portland, Oregon with projects around the United States, is a nonprofit organization that harnesses technology, lawyers and organizers to advance immigrant and refugee justice. For more information, see www.innovationlawlab.org and follow us on social media: Innovation Law Lab on Facebook and @ThinkLawLab on Twitter.


About Arnold & Porter: With nearly 1,000 lawyers practicing in 13 offices around the globe, Arnold & Porter serves clients across 40 distinct practice areas. The firm offers 100 years of renowned regulatory expertise, sophisticated litigation and transactional practices, and leading multidisciplinary offerings in the life sciences and financial services industries. For more information, visit www.arnoldporter.com.

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