Unlawful DOJ Rule Remains in Effect While Litigation Pending 

Trump Admin Made Sweeping Procedural Changes That Deny Due Process, Will Cause Wrongful Deportations, and Worsen Immigration Court Case Backlog

Washington, D.C. — On Monday, five immigrant justice groups filed a motion to stay an unlawful Trump administration rule that went into effect on January 15 and severely restricts immigrants’ access to justice in immigration court.

The rule, issued by Trump’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — the Department of Justice (DOJ) office that runs the nation’s immigration courts — upends existing procedures within EOIR’s immigration court system, especially those governing EOIR’s Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). It unlawfully deprives immigrants of access to a full and fair hearing, limits their right to present evidence and to select legal counsel of their choosing, and eliminates essential means of securing immigration relief.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), HIAS (founded as Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed the lawsuit on January 12. NIJC and Democracy Forward represent the plaintiffs.

In the filings, the groups — which collectively serve tens of thousands of noncitizens in immigration proceedings each year — detail the irreparable harm the eleventh-hour Trump-era rule is causing and highlight the urgency of their motion to stay the rule. The groups issued the following statement:

“The Trump administration’s malicious — and unlawful — immigration policies continue to harm hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the U.S. The prior administration’s sweeping restriction of noncitizens’ access to a fair hearing in court is an urgent problem. Each day the unlawful rule remains on the books, irreparable harm is done to countless immigrants navigating the nation’s immigration courts. We’re moving to put an immediate halt to the Trump-era rule to protect immigrants’ access to justice and to ensure federal agencies uphold the law.”

In court declarations, the immigrant justice groups leading this case shed light on the irreparable harm caused by the Trump administration’s unlawful rule:

  • Michelle N. Mendez, Director of the Defending Vulnerable Populations program at CLINICexplains EOIR’s rule “will create the need for more appeals to the BIA and more motions to reopen, respectively.” The rule, Mendez says, “will also immediately impair the core missions of CLINIC’s affiliates to provide competent removal defense to low-income and vulnerable populations.”
  • Andrea Sáenz, Attorney-in-Charge of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project team at Brooklyn Defender Servicessays the rule “will cause widespread injustices and significant inefficiencies in removal cases, and will eliminate crucial tools that BDS staff use to demonstrate eligibility for relief.” It will, Sáenz states, “cause more people we represent to be ordered removed without a viable option to challenge that removal order.”
  • Laura St. John, legal director of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Projectnotes that the result of the unlawful rule “will be the wrongful removal of individuals who otherwise would be eligible for relief or protection.”
  • Smita Rao Dazzo, Senior Director of Legal and Asylum at HIASexplains EOIR’s rule “will essentially eradicate avenues of relief for many current or potential HIAS clients in immigration removal proceedings” and will therefore “limit the type and number of new clients HIAS will be able to accept, and prevent us from implementing legal strategy developed for current clients.”
  • Lisa Koop, an associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Centerstates that “[t]he human toll of these changes is hard to overstate. Curtailing due process in this manner and further politicizing EOIR guarantees that NIJC will be less able to help our clients to sufficiently present their defenses to removal, and for many the result will be summary removal.”

Learn more about the unlawful rule and its harms here. The plaintiffs’ motion for a stay and/or a preliminary injunction and the supporting declarations were filed on February 1. Their lawsuit was filed on January 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Read it in full here.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., or CLINIC, advocates for humane and just immigration policy. Its network of nonprofit immigration programs — more than 370 affiliates in 49 states and the District of Columbia — is the largest in the nation. CLINIC provides substantive legal and program management training and resources, as well as advocacy support at state, local and national levels.

Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is a public defender organization serving tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents each year since 1996. Our mission is to provide high-quality and client-centered criminal, family, immigration, and civil legal representation, as well as social work support and advocacy for people who cannot afford an attorney.

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project is the largest organization in Arizona providing free legal and social services to detained adults and children facing removal proceedings, through direct service, partnerships within the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts.

Founded in 1881, HIAS is a Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers in 16 countries. We advocate for the rights of all forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives. Together, we can create a world in which refugees find welcome, safety, and freedom.

The National Immigrant Justice Center is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.

Press Contacts

Charisma Troiano
Democracy Forward
(202) 701-1781
[email protected]

Lynn Tramonte
CLINIC
(202) 255-0551
[email protected]

Daniel Ball
Brooklyn Defender Services
[email protected]

Greer Millard
Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project
(602) 795-7407
[email protected]

Meredith MacKenzie
HIAS
(202) 412-4270
[email protected]

Tara Tidwell Cullen
National Immigrant Justice Center
(312) 833-2967
[email protected]