WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today led a 19-state coalition challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine asylum protections. Under an interim final rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) are requiring asylum-seekers to undergo a “threshold screening” before determining if they can seek asylum in the United States. In a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the plaintiffs in U.T. v. Barr, the State Attorneys General argue that this screening effectively ignores asylum claims and forces people, many fleeing violence and persecution, to seek humanitarian relief in countries that are ill-equipped to protect them. The coalition also argues that the rule deprives the states of valuable contributions made by immigrants, including in the District where more than 100,000 immigrants help power the economy and contribute millions of dollars in taxes each year to the public fisc.
“Yet again, the Trump administration is working to limit immigration from countries of color and ignoring our country’s humanitarian commitments to people fleeing violence and persecution,” said AG Racine. “The new asylum rule will no longer permit some individuals to seek refuge in the U.S., forcing them, instead, to be processed in countries that are ill-equipped to protect them and are especially dangerous for women, children, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Our coalition of State Attorneys General will continue to fight this Administration’s repeated attempts to circumvent the law and harm immigrants.”
In 2019, the federal government entered into “asylum cooperative agreements” with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which allow the United States to deport asylum-seekers to these countries rather than processing their asylum claims here. The challenged DHS and DOJ rule establishes the framework for asylum-seekers to be deported to these countries before their claim for asylum is heard in the United States. In the amicus brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the coalition argues that the rule will significantly harm states and asylum-seekers by:
- Forcing asylum-seekers to seek refuge in countries with high-levels of violence: Giving asylum-seekers a safe haven from persecution is a fundamental value of the United States. However, this rule would force asylum-seekers to seek asylum in Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras, countries with high levels of violence, especially for women, children, and LGBTQ individuals. Also, Guatemala, currently the only country where an asylum cooperative agreement is officially in effect, has insufficient staff to handle humanitarian claims. There are only 12 officials working on asylum cases in the entire country, and only three of them are tasked with interviewing applicants.
- Jeopardizing family unity: The States value family unity because families provide crucial social support that strengthens neighborhoods and communities. The rule will prevent asylum-seekers from reuniting with family members living in the United States and instead send them to countries where they may suffer additional persecution.
- Threatening state economies: The States welcome thousands of immigrants each year who contribute greatly to their communities and economies. In the District, more than one in seven residents, and one in six workers, is an immigrant. In 2014, immigrant-owned businesses generated $121.9 million in income and employed 41,672 people in the District. The rule will lower tax and spending revenue for the States and harm local businesses that will have to find alternative labor.
- Denying states’ legal right to notice and input on the rule: The coalition argues the rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule changes, and deprived states of the opportunity to comment on the rule prior to its implementation.
The amicus brief was led by District of Columbia AG Karl Racine and California AG Xavier Becerra, and joined by Attorneys General from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
A copy of the amicus brief is at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/UT-v-Barr-Asylum-Amicus.pdf
OAG’s Continued Efforts to Protect Immigrants
This is the latest effort by Attorney General Racine to protect established federal immigration policy, keep longtime District residents from losing their protected status, and advocate for immigrants in the District and nationwide. This year, Attorney General Racine led a multistate coalition opposing a move by the Trump administration to double asylum seekers’ wait to legally work. In 2019, the Attorney General led a multistate amicus brief opposing the illegal termination of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian born residents, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block DHS’s Public Charge rule from taking effect, and led a multistate amicus brief challenging the Trump administration’s changes to asylum standards in Grace v. Barr. He also joined with other attorneys general to take action against the Trump administration to protect public safety funding for “sanctuary” cities; prevent attempts to close the Southern border to asylum seekers; block immigration-related conditions on law enforcement grants; stop a cruel family separation policy; fight for hard-working “DREAMers” to stay in the United States; and to oppose the “Muslim travel ban.”