Immigration Law

ABA becomes plaintiff in lawsuit over treatment of children affected by remain-in-Mexico program

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The ABA’s immigration project in Texas has joined a lawsuit alleging that unaccompanied children affected by the Trump administration’s remain-in-Mexico program are being denied basic legal rights.

The ABA’s South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, known as ProBAR, joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff Feb. 12, along with a New York nonprofit called the Door, according to an ABA press release. The amended lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, is here.

The suit says some of the children sent to Mexico under the policy have entered the United States on their own, yet they are denied legal protections given to other unaccompanied children.

The children are denied reunification with appropriate caregivers, are subject to continuing jurisdiction of remain-in-Mexico asylum courts, are prevented from seeking asylum under a trafficking law, and are in some cases being fast-tracked for removal, the suit says.

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo commented on the suit in the press release.

“It is inexcusable for the United States to turn a blind eye to defenseless children who seek our protection,” Refo said. “Under United States law and international law, unaccompanied children who enter the United States are entitled to certain legal protections—including meaningful access to lawyers and due process—that they are not getting now. This lawsuit aims to stop those illegal practices and bring justice to vulnerable children.”

The Biden administration announced Friday that it will gradually allow people to enter the United States who are waiting in Mexico with active asylum cases, the Associated Press reported. The Trump administration program was formally called Migrant Protection Protocols.

Although the Biden administration has promised to end the Migrant Protection Protocols, President Joe Biden’s executive orders have not yet addressed the harms faced by children accompanied by a parent, the amended lawsuit says.

ProBAR is the largest provider of legal services to unaccompanied children in the U.S. immigration system. The suit alleges violations of the due process clause, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a consent decree governing unaccompanied children, and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The existing plaintiffs in the suit are the Immigration Defenders Law Center and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is providing pro bono support. The case is Immigration Defenders Law Center v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

See also: “SCOTUS should overturn the ‘return to Mexico’ policy, ABA says in amicus brief” “Remain-in-Mexico policy for asylum-seekers will be reviewed by Supreme Court” “SCOTUS allows remain-in-Mexico policy to continue during legal challenge”

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