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Immigrant Defenders Law Center v. Mayorkas

In October 2020, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a new challenge to the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which had forced over 60,000 asylum seekers into precarious, life-threatening situations in Mexico and deprived them of access to legal assistance and other tools needed to meaningfully present their asylum claims.

The lawsuit challenges the “Remain in Mexico” policy as applied to tens of thousands of asylum seekers still trapped in Mexico despite the indefinite suspension of all immigration court hearings under the policy. It seeks to block the continued implementation of the policy, facilitate the return of individual asylum-seeking plaintiffs so they can pursue their claims from within the United States, and allow legal service organizations to continue their work unencumbered on behalf of asylum seekers.  Co-counsel include Innovation Law Lab, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

Before the implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” policy in January 2019, all asylum seekers were permitted to remain in the United States during their asylum proceedings rather than in Mexico, where they are at risk of physical violence, deprived of access to basic needs, and subject to pervasive discrimination. Legal service providers joined this lawsuit to defend their right to provide meaningful representation to asylum seekers.

In 2019, the SPLC, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, filed the first lawsuit against the policy, Innovation Law Lab v. Wolf, et al., shortly after it took effect. In February 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked the policy on the ground that it was not authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the injunction pending the disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari, which was later granted. The stay remains in place pending review by the Supreme Court.