Portland Nonprofit Leads Lawsuit Against Trump Administration For Sending Asylum Seekers to Mexico While They Await Immigration Cases

“This is no longer just a war on asylum seekers, it’s a war on our system of laws.”

Occupy ICE Headquarter in Portland, OR on June 19, 2018. (Diego G Diaz)

Portland-based nonprofit Innovation Law Lab is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the Trump Administration today.

The organization, which uses "data, design and the law to support asylum seekers," is challenging a set of protocols that sends asylum-seekers to Mexico while they await their immigration cases.

The new policy went into effect Jan. 28. It originally focused only on individual, adult asylum seekers, but yesterday it was extended to families.

Today, The Hill reports, the first asylum-seeking Central American families were transferred as part of the Migrant Protection Protocols. Four women, 10 children and one couple were reportedly sent back to Mexico.

The Innovation Law Lab, along with five other advocacy organizations and 11 affected asylum-seekers, is now suing over what they say is a "violation of the humanitarian protections to which they are entitled under United States and international law."

"The new protocol not only jeopardizes the lives and well-being of asylum seekers in Mexico," Stephen Manning, executive director of Innovation Law Lab says in a statement, "but diverts limited resources and staff time away from existing programs to respond to this crisis."

The lawsuit says the new protocol is unlawful because it places asylum seekers back in potential danger. It cites violations of the U.S.'s Administrative Procedures Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act and human rights laws.

"Since the enactment of the 1980 Refugee Act nearly forty years ago," the lawsuit reads. "U.S. law has prohibited the return of individuals to countries where they are likely to face persecution."

It continues: "By placing them in such danger, and under conditions that make if difficult if not impossible for them to prepare their cases, Defendants are depriving them of a meaningful opportunity to seek asylum."

The Innovation Law Lab and 16 fellow plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

"This is no longer just a war on asylum seekers, it's a war on our system of laws," Melissa Crow, an SPLC senior supervising attorney says in a statement. "This misguided policy deprives vulnerable individuals of humanitarian protections that have been on the books for decades and puts their lives in jeopardy."

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