Asylum Cooperative Agreements Lawsuit: What You Need to Know
In September 2019, the Trump administration announced new regulations that expanded the use of asylum cooperative agreements (ACAs) with countries in Central America and the Caribbean to limit the number of asylum seekers arriving at the southern border of the United States. Under the ACA policy, asylum seekers who travel through these countries on their way to the U.S. would be required to apply for and obtain asylum in the first country they enter, unless they can prove that they were persecuted or tortured in that country, or that they had applied for and been denied protection there.
The ACA policy has faced legal challenges and criticism from human rights advocates, who argue that it violates U.S. and international laws on asylum and refugees, and puts vulnerable migrants at risk of further harm. In particular, they point to the conditions in the countries with which the U.S. has signed ACAs, such as Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, which have high levels of violence, corruption, and impunity, and whose governments have limited capacity and political will to protect human rights.
On July 16, 2020, two immigration advocacy groups, the Capital Area Immigrants` Rights Coalition and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the legality of the ACA policy and seeking to block its implementation. The plaintiffs argue that the ACA policy violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Constitution`s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, by depriving asylum seekers of their right to seek protection from persecution and denying them a fair and meaningful opportunity to present their claims.
The lawsuit also claims that the ACA policy was adopted without proper notice and comment rulemaking, and that the government failed to take into account the impact of the policy on vulnerable populations, including women, children, and LGBT+ individuals, who may face heightened risks of violence and discrimination in the countries covered by the ACAs. The plaintiffs argue that the ACA policy was a result of an unlawful and arbitrary decision-making process that lacked transparency, accountability, and reasoned analysis.
The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, asking the court to declare the ACA policy illegal and unconstitutional, and to enjoin the government from enforcing it. The case is pending before Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who has scheduled a hearing on August 27, 2020, on the plaintiffs` motion for a preliminary injunction.
The outcome of the lawsuit could have significant implications for the ACA policy and the U.S. government`s approach to asylum and migration. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the ACA policy may be struck down as invalid and unenforceable, and the government may have to revert to the previous system of processing asylum claims without requiring applicants to seek protection in third countries. If the court upholds the ACA policy, it may embolden the government to expand or replicate the use of ACAs with other countries, and weaken the rights and protections of asylum seekers under U.S. and international law.
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