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Grace v. Barr

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U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No.1:18-cv-01853-EGS
U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, No. 19-5013

What is the government doing and why are we challenging it?

In Matter of A-B-, the Attorney General wrote that “generally” domestic violence cases should not be approved and made other pronouncements about asylum law intended to restrict all claims involving non-state persecutors. Immediately after his decision, the government issued guidance instructing officials at the border that since such claims should generally not be considered valid, asylum seekers going through the credible fear interview process as part of expedited removal should be denied. This meant that these asylum seekers were promptly removed from the United States and were never able even to present their asylum claim to an immigration judge.

In August 2018, we challenged the government’s guidance implementing Matter of A-B- in expedited removal.  A credible fear interview is intended to be a generous initial screening using a lower standard, designed by Congress to ensure that anyone who might have a claim for asylum is able to present it to an immigration judge.

What’s the status of this case?

In December 2018, the District Court for the District of Columbia issued a permanent nationwide injunction against the use of Matter of A-B- and the accompanying guidance in credible fear interviews.

On July 17, 2020, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld key aspects of the lower court's injunction, affirming that survivors seeking refuge at the border must be provided a fair opportunity to present their asylum claims.

Whose life is at stake?

Our clients are 12 asylum seekers who were found not to have a credible fear of persecution and would have been removed promptly, without a chance to tell their full stories to an immigration judge, without the district court’s action. One of them, “Grace,” is an indigenous Guatemalan woman who has survived decades of extreme domestic violence. Grace’s abuser has two sons from another relationship who are members of a criminal gang with a network across Guatemala; they also abused Grace. Not only did the police fail to help Grace when she sought their protection, they actually helped her abuser evict her from her own home. Even though Grace was found to be credible, she received a negative credible fear determination and was slated for immediate deportation.

Who’s involved?

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies is counsel along with the American Civil Liberties Union. Several organizations and individuals filed amicus briefs in this case including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Congressional Accountability Center, administrative law professors, immigration law professors, and the Tahirih Justice Center.  

How can you help?

  • Sign our petition urging the government to stop turning back domestic violence survivors and all other asylum seekers at the border.
  • Learn more about how you can support the struggle to restore protections for survivors of domestic violence at ImmigrantWomenToo.org.
  • You can support CGRS’s vital work on cases like this one by making a donation.

Need more information?

Contact Brianna Krong, Communications and Advocacy Manager, at krongbrianna@uclawsf.edu.

Resources for Advocates

Legal Documents

Grace v. Barr - Court of Appeals Opinion, July 17, 2020

EOIR Guidance Re: Grace Injunction, December 19, 2018

USCIS Guidance Re: Grace Injunction, December 19, 2018

Grace v. Whitaker - Injunction Order, December 19, 2018

Grace v. Whitaker - District Court Opinion, December 19, 2018

Grace v. Sessions - District Court Order, August 9, 2018

Grace v. Sessions - Hearing Transcript, August 9, 2018

Grace v. Sessions - Plaintiffs' Memo in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, August 8, 2018

Grace v. Sessions - Complaint, August 7, 2018

Press Releases

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Trump Policies Restricting Asylum for Immigrants Fleeing Domestic and Gang Violence | July 17, 2020

New Guidance Requires Fair Process for Domestic Violence, Gang Asylum Claims at the Border | Jan 14, 2019

Court Rules Trump Policies Denying Asylum Protections to People Fleeing Domestic and Gang Violence Are Illegal | Dec 19, 2018

Federal Court Temporarily Blocks Deportation of Asylum Seekers Challenging administration Policies | Aug 09, 2018

Groups Challenge Trump administration’s Attacks on Asylum Protections | Aug 07, 2018

New Guidance Attempts to Undermine Access to Refugee Protection | Jul 12, 2018

Select Media Coverage

"Appeals court blocks administration effort to weaken protections for asylum-seekers," Matthew Choi, Politico, July 17, 2020

“Emails Reveal How the Trump Administration Backed Down on Asylum Restrictions,” Jack Herrera, Pacific Standard, January 14, 2019

“Asylum seekers ‘elated’ after judge strikes down Trump rules,” Danielle Silva, NBC News, December 19, 2018

“Federal judge overturns White House policy on asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence,” Julian Aguilar, Texas Tribune, December 19, 2018

“Judge halts mother-daughter deportation, threatens to hold Sessions in contempt,” Arelis R. Hernández, Washington Post, August 9, 2018

“Judge Slams Administration for Trying to Deport Family While Case Is in Court,” Noah Lanard, Mother Jones, August 9, 2018

Grace v. Sessions– Suing to Stop Shutting Down Asylum Claims at the Border,” Eunice Lee, Just Security, August 7, 2018

ACLU sues Jeff Sessions over restricting asylum for victims of domestic, gang violence,” Daniella Silva, NBC News, August 7, 2018