District Court Issues Favorable Nationwide Ruling on Behalf of Thousands of Asylum Seekers
For Immediate Release
March 29, 2018
Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Vicky Dobrin or Hilary Han, Dobrin & Han, PC
Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council
Seattle, WA – A federal district court judge in Washington State ruled today that the federal government’s failure to notify asylum seekers that they must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States violated their right to due process and ordered the government to provide such notice. In granting the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in Mendez-Rojas v. Johnson, No. 2:16-cv-01024-RSM, Chief United States District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez of the Western District of Washington also found that the government’s failure to provide a system that ensures that all asylum seekers can timely file their applications unlawfully denied asylum seekers their right to apply for asylum. The ruling covers thousands of class members throughout the United States. Class members are represented by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Dobrin & Han, PC, and the American Immigration Council.
Finding that class members are entitled to notice of the one-year deadline, Judge Martinez quoted the Supreme Court, admonishing that “when notice is a person’s due, process which is a mere gesture is not due process.” In response to the government’s allegations that the procedures they have created are owed deference, Judge Martinez further declared that “no deference is owed to procedures that violate a statute or the Constitution.”
The Court ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide written notice of the one-year filing deadline to all class members. In addition, the Court ordered Defendants to accept as timely any asylum application from a class member filed within one year of receiving such notice. Finally, the Court ordered the government to create a uniform, procedural mechanism to ensure that all class members have a meaningful opportunity to file their asylum applications in a timely manner.
The lawsuit was originally filed in June 2016, and the district court certified two nationwide classes of affected asylum seekers in January of last year. The certified classes include asylum seekers who enter the United States, express to DHS a fear of return to their home countries, and are then released from immigration custody by DHS in order to pursue asylum claims.
“There is no justice where the immigration process surreptitiously blocks asylum seekers of the right to present their claims,” said Matt Adams, legal director for NWIRP. “The Court has soundly rejected a government practice which unfairly stripped asylum seekers of the right to present their case.”
“The court’s decision today guarantees that asylum seekers will not be denied the opportunity to apply for protection from persecution,” said Vicky Dobrin of Dobrin & Han, PC.
“Asylum seekers are entitled to a meaningful notice and an opportunity to be heard on their claims. By eliminating significant obstacles to timely filing asylum applications, the Court’s ruling has restored these due process protections to the asylum process,” stated Trina Realmuto, directing attorney of the Boston office of the American Immigration Council.
The Court’s order can be found here.