BREAKING: The Second Trump Asylum Ban Has Been Defeated in Court

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July 1, 2020

Washington, D.C. - On Tuesday, Judge Timothy Kelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down President Trump’s second asylum ban, ending a restrictive policy that had virtually halted asylum at the southern border for the last year.  Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, Human Rights First, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and nine individual asylum seekers -- represented by Hogan Lovells -- brought the victorious lawsuit, which was consolidated with a related case brought by Tahirih Justice Center and several additional asylum seekers.  Judge Kelly’s decision immediately halts implementation of the policy, which barred asylum for any individual who crossed the southern border without first seeking protection from a third country while en route to the United States. 

The Trump Administration issued the invalidated rule, entitled “Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications,” on July 16, 2019.  The plaintiffs brought suit the same day, charging that the policy exceeded the Administration’s authority under the asylum laws and failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.  In his 52-page decision, Judge Kelly -- appointed to the bench by President Trump in 2017 -- concluded that the Trump Administration “unlawfully dispensed” with notice-and-comment requirements in issuing the rule. He further announced that his decision would go into effect immediately, promptly ending application of a restrictive rule that has been in effect for nearly a year and impacted thousands of asylum seekers.

Judge Kelly’s ruling is of enormous significance for countless asylum-seekers who entered the United States after fleeing deadly violence and persecution from throughout the globe.  It is often impossible for individuals to seek or obtain asylum in third countries en route to the United States due to safety concerns and severe deficiencies in those countries’ asylum systems.  The asylum rule thus operated as a virtual ban on asylum at the southern border, regardless of how meritorious a person’s asylum claim was.  Many thousands of individuals who entered the country while this rule was in effect will now have the opportunity, for the first time, to have their asylum claims adjudicated.

“The court determined what we have all known since this rule was created--that it is illegal, it violates everything this country stands for, and it must be thrown out. The court's decisive action is a victory to all asylum seekers and human rights protectors everywhere,” said Manoj Govindaiah, Director of Litigation at RAICES. 

“By striking down this rule, Judge Kelly reaffirmed two fundamental principles. The protection of asylum seekers fleeing for safety is intertwined with our national values and that the United States is a country where the rule of law cannot be tossed aside for political whims. For many of the individual asylum seekers we fight alongside, this ruling removes an unjust barrier to security,” said Claudia Cubas, Litigation Director at CAIR Coalition.  

“Judge Kelly’s ruling is proof that the administration cannot do an end-run around the law,” said Hardy Vieux, Senior Vice President, at Human Rights First. "In the United States of America, we follow the rule of law, even when it benefits asylum-seekers demonized by this administraiton. We do not follow the rule of on capricious man, who treats the law as something on which to trample, on his way to a photo op. We are gratified that the judiciary again reaffirms that for the last 244 years we have been, and will continue to be a country ruled by law, not men. Happy Independence Day."

“Judge Kelly’s ruling is a massive victory for asylum-seekers and the rule of law,” said Mitchell Reich, the attorney at Hogan Lovells who argued the case. "Judge Kelly rightly concluded that the Administration failed to do its homework in issuing this rule. It didn't hear from interested parties, and it didn't give any remotely satisfactory explaination for ignoring normal administrative procedures. Hogan Lovells was honored to stand with our client in challenging -- and defeating -- this unjustified and lawless policy."

Read the decision here and order here.


Media Contacts:

RAICES: Lucia Allain,

HRF: Meredith MacKenzie, 

CAIR Coalition: Sheena Pegarido,

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