A pivotal day for the rights of asylum seekers

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Over the past several days, it feels as if the entire country has been rightly outraged by continued reports of human rights abuses at the southern border. And while the Presidential Administration continues to attack immigrants with threats and harmful policies, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is taking a stand against these injustices through the courts.

 

Tomorrow, NWIRP’s impact litigation team will be in federal court here in Seattle for a pivotal hearing that will have a far-reaching impact on the rights of asylum seekers throughout the United States. The case we brought with our partners, Padilla v. ICE, began over one year ago when Yolany Padilla, a mother who was cruelly separated from her six-year-old son at the southern border, was denied a prompt bond hearing which would have allowed her the chance to be reunited with him. We quickly filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Yolany and several other mothers who were being denied their right to a prompt bond hearing to ensure that these community members had a chance to hold their children in their arms again. And since that time, the lawsuit has become a class-action case in which federal judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle has appointed NWIRP and our partners at American Immigration Council and the ACLU to represent all detained asylum seekers around the country to contest their right to a bond hearing.

 

In April, we celebrated a ground-breaking victory in the case when Judge Pechman ruled that the government must provide qualifying community members with asylum claims either a bond hearing before an immigration judge within seven days of their request or to release them from detention. But this celebration was short-lived. Just a few days after Judge Pechman’s ruling, Attorney General William Barr issued a new policy in which he purports to categorically deny bond hearings to asylum seekers.

 

We believe the Attorney General’s proposed policy violates the due process clause of the constitution as well as long-time immigration legislation. In tomorrow’s hearing, we will be taking a stand against the Attorney General’s unconstitutional policy, and will be asking Judge Pechman to declare that thousands of asylum seekers around the country are entitled to ask an immigration judge for release on bond.

 

And that is only one way we are holding this Administration accountable. Earlier this week, we joined our colleagues at the ACLU of Washington in filing another federal civil rights lawsuit against the Border Patrol.  This case stems from an incident in July of 2017 when our client, Mr. Andres Sosa Segura, was unlawfully detained for hours by Border Patrol as he was attempting to travel by bus from Montana to his home in Washington State. The Border Patrol agents singled Mr. Sosa out as the only Latinx-appearing passenger on his Greyhound bus at the Spokane Intermodal Center. Although the agents had no reason to believe Mr. Sosa had violated any federal laws, they ordered him outside the bus station for further interrogation, put him in their vehicle, and drove him to a facility about an hour away – where he was locked in a cell without access to a phone for several hours before being released.
 

Unfortunately, this incident is not an isolated one, but fits a pattern of ongoing discriminatory activity by Border Patrol agents in and around Spokane and really around the country (so much so that we helped create a website to catalogue all the cases against them). When these agents of the federal government don’t obey the constitution, all our rights are at risk. We are hopeful that this lawsuit will help bring accountability for Border Patrol’s unlawful actions.