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Pangea Legal Services v. DHS

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Case Status: 

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:20-cv-09253

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

On December 11, 2020, the Trump administration issued a sweeping new rule with the sole objective of limiting asylum. Decried by advocates as the “death to asylum,” this rule is a complete overhaul of the procedural and substantive standards for asylum and related humanitarian protections. Among other changes, the rule enacts arbitrary and ideologically driven restrictions on who can qualify for relief, taking particular aim at women, families, and LGBTQ people. It also establishes a number of new bars to asylum eligibility in the guise of “discretionary” factors, and strips away fundamental due process protections, including the right to a hearing.

We’re challenging this rule because it violates our domestic and international obligations of non-refoulement, which prohibit the return of people to countries where they would face persecution or torture. In its effort to dramatically reduce the number of people who receive protection in the United States, the rule upends decades of settled precedent and flouts the will of Congress, setting forth standards that conflict with core provisions of the 1980 Refugee Act. This rule is the culmination of the Trump administration’s years-long assault on asylum and is a last-minute, procedurally flawed attempt to destroy the protections established in our immigration laws by executive fiat.

What is at stake? 

Virtually every asylum seeker will be affected by the rule which, if permitted to take effect, will undoubtedly result in people being deported to face persecution, torture, and even death in their home countries. The rule transforms the substantive asylum standards in a way that clearly targets those fleeing persecution by non-government actors, particularly in cases of gender-based violence or gang brutality. But the rule’s fear-reaching provisions serve to undermine most claims for protection. Moreover, the rule dramatically weakens procedural protections, making it more difficult for all asylum seekers to fairly and fully present their claims. 

What’s the status of this case? 

On January 8, 2021, three days before the rule was scheduled to take effect, U.S. District Judge James Donato issued an order granting our plaintiffs’ request for a nationwide preliminary injunction. The rule is therefore not currently in effect. The case is in administrative closure in the Northern District of California.

Who’s involved? 

CGRS is counsel along with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program and Sidley Austin LLP. The plaintiffs are legal services organizations that represent asylum seekers—Pangea Legal Services, Dolores Street Community Services, Inc., Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition. A number of groups and organizations filed amicus briefs in support of the request for a preliminary injunction, including Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, Public Counsel, immigration law professors, former immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals members, 17 cities, and 22 states.

Additionally, three other lawsuits have been filed challenging the rule. One of the cases, Immigration Equality v. DHS, No. 3:20-cv-09258, was also filed in the Northern District of California and has been related to CGRS’s case; the two cases are thus proceeding in tandem before Judge Donato and the injunction applies to both cases. The Immigration Equality case is brought by five organizational plaintiffs: Immigration Equality, Oasis Legal Services, The Translatin@ Coalition, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, and Transgender Law Center. The plaintiffs are represented by Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality, and Kramer Levin LLP. Two other cases were filed in the District of D.C. In Human Rights First v. Wolf, No. 1:20-cv-3764, Plaintiff Human Rights First is represented by Williams & Connolly LLP. In Tahirih Justice Center v. Gaynor, No. 1:21-cv-124, Plaintiffs Tahirih Justice Center and Ayuda, Inc. are represented by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and the Constitutional Accountability Center. 

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 

If you are representing an asylum seeker and looking for more information on the rule and any potential impact on your case, please submit a request for assistance at cgrs.uclawsf.edu/assistance/request.