Our Work » Litigation » Immigrant Defenders Law Center v. Mayorkas

Immigrant Defenders Law Center v. Mayorkas

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Case Status: 

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 2:20-cv-09893

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

In January 2019, the Trump administration launched the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), better known as “Remain in Mexico.” Under Remain in Mexico more than 68,000 people seeking asylum and related relief at the southern border were sent to dangerous border towns in Mexico during the pendency of their proceedings in U.S. immigration courts. The vast majority of people placed in Remain in Mexico were unable to access counsel, due to communication barriers in Mexico, DHS interference with access to counsel at the immigration courts, and the paucity of U.S. immigration attorneys willing to represent individuals subject to MPP. Abysmal conditions in Mexico, including the presence of organized criminal groups that target migrants for violence and kidnapping, further prevented applicants from attending their hearings or building their cases.

In 2021, the Biden administration recognized the severe harms inflicted by Remain in Mexico and began processing certain categories of people who had been enrolled in MPP into the United States; the administration eventually terminated Remain in Mexico entirely. However, in August 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay a lower court ruling in Texas v. Biden that ordered the Biden administration to restart Remain in Mexico. In response to this litigation, the Biden administration resumed implementing Remain in Mexico in December 2021 and abruptly – but unnecessarily – stopped processing Remain in Mexico enrollees into the United States.

In this case, CGRS and our partners are challenging the original implementation of Remain in Mexico, which deprived asylum seekers of their right to apply for asylum, their right to access counsel, and their rights under the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Whose life is at stake? 

CGRS is bringing this class action on behalf of a certified class defined as: “All individual subjected to MPP 1.0 prior to June 1, 2021, who remain outside the United States, and whose cases are currently not active due to termination of proceedings or a final removal order.”

The named plaintiffs are 12 individuals subjected to MPP, including Dania Doe. Dania fled El Salvador with her daughter after testifying against gang members. While waiting in Mexico for their court date, Dania and her daughter were kidnapped and held for 15 days by two armed men, who repeatedly raped Dania. When Dania contacted lawyers for help with her immigration case, they told her they couldn’t represent people in Mexico. After the judge denied Dania’s case for failing to provide evidence she didn’t know she needed, Dania was unable to file papers to appeal her case because she does not speak English.

What’s the status of this case? 

CGRS’s partners initiated this case in October 2020 and filed an updated complaint in December 2021. In early 2022, the government filed a motion to dismiss the case and CGRS and co-counsel filed a motion to certify the case as a class action. On March 15, 2023, the district court granted the motion to certify the class and denied in part the motion to dismiss. The case is now in discovery.

Who’s involved? 

CGRS is counsel along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Innovation Law Lab, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and Arnold & Porter LLP. In addition to the individual plaintiffs, CGRS and co-counsel are representing Immigrant Defenders Law Center and Jewish Family Service of San Diego as organizational plaintiffs.

How can you help? 

Take the #WelcomeWithDignity pledge and join our movement to defend the right to seek asylum. 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 

CGRS has produced several resources to support attorneys representing clients impacted by policies affecting asylum seekers at the border. Click here to request materials relevant to your client’s case.