Man Nearly Deported Awaiting Asylum Decision for Sixteen Years

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Contact: Michelle Muri, Staff Attorney,, 206-957-8635

SEATTLE, WA—Mr. Chay Ixcot will finally have the opportunity to present his asylum claim after waiting for sixteen years, thanks to Northwest Immigrant Rights Project’s representation and a decision issued earlier this month by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

For sixteen years the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) held on to Mr. Chay Ixcot’s asylum application, providing work authorization and interviewing him on three separate occasions.  But the agency never completed processing Mr. Chay Ixcot’s application.  Instead, DHS decided that they could simply ignore his pending asylum application and attempt to deport him.

Mr. Chay Ixcot had first been stopped while entering the country in 1989 and had been ordered deported in 1990.  He left the United States in 1993 but returned three weeks later.  That same year he filed an asylum application, stating that he feared returning to his native Guatemala due to the ongoing violence and retribution resulting from the civil war.

Three years later, in 1996, the immigration laws dramatically changed.  After 1996, if someone had already been deported once, the government could simply “reinstate” their prior order and deport them again without giving them any opportunity to seek immigration relief or status.  This holds true today. However, Mr. Chay Ixcot argued that he should not have been subject to this law as he applied for asylum in 1993 before this new law was enacted.

At the last of Mr. Chay Ixcot’s three asylum interviews in 2009 he was arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.  DHS had reinstated his 1990 deportation order under the 1996 law.

NWIRP learned of this situation and agreed to represent Mr. Chay Ixcot in challenging DHS’s failure to review and issue a decision on his asylum application.  Mr. Chay Ixcot argued that since his application had been filed prior to the 1996 change, DHS was obligated to resolve his asylum application before enforcing the deportation order.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, striking down the deportation order as unlawful because it unlawfully deprived Mr. Chay Ixcot of the opportunity to first resolve his asylum claim.

“The Court’s published decision [Chay Ixcot v. Holder] sets a precedent that others can rely on,” stated Matt Adams, Legal Director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) and Mr. Ixcot’s attorney.

“This case is all about fair notice,” said Mr. Adams.  “The government attempted to change the rules several years after our client applied.  All he seeks is an opportunity to fairly present his claim for asylum.”

For a PDF of the press release click here.