Frustrated with both President Trump and Congress, immigrant-rights activists are increasingly turning to the courts to try to alter the country’s immigration policies — with three new lawsuits filed on Thursday alone against the Department of Homeland Security.
One of the suits demands deportation officers stop arresting illegal immigrants at courthouses, while another accuses Homeland Security of unfairly detaining asylum-seekers while their cases are being heard.
A third challenge asks a court to overturn Homeland Security’s decision to end special humanitarian protections for some 50,000 Haitians who will become illegal immigrants in 2019, after their Temporary Protected Status runs out.
They join dozens of other lawsuits already ongoing, challenging everything from big decisions such as Mr. Trump’s travel ban to individual deportations of Somalis, Indonesians and Iraqis. Challenges to his sanctuary city policy, attempts to revoke the DACA deportation amnesty, treatment of illegal immigrants in detention, the border wall and access to abortions for illegal-immigrant children are also pending.
The fierce pushback underscores just how much of a break the Trump administration made with its predecessors on immigration policy, as it sought to make good on the president’s campaign promises of stiffer enforcement, a better-protected border and safer communities.
In the new courthouse action, filed before a Massachusetts judge, three groups asked for a “writ of protection” to prevent immigrants from being detained while they’re at a courthouse.
The complaint cites one woman who says she’s scared to go to court to renew a restraining order against her abusive ex-husband because she fears being nabbed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“When people fear our judicial system that undermines the very fabric of our society and weakens communities,” said Ivan Esinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, which was one of the groups filing for the writ.
ICE says it doesn’t target migrants at schools, hospitals or churches, but it does permit arrests at courthouses — a practice that predates the Trump administration.
With the growth of sanctuary cities, however, ICE said it’s increasingly looking to use courthouses as safe locations.
“Individuals entering courthouses are typically screened by law enforcement personnel to search for weapons and other contraband. Accordingly, civil immigration enforcement actions taken inside courthouses can reduce safety risks to the public, targeted alien(s), and ICE officers and agents,” the agency said in a policy update earlier this year.
ICE did say it would try to avoid arrests in non-criminal settings such as family court.
In another of Thursday’s court actions the American Civil Liberties Union and allies filed a class action lawsuit in Washington, D.C., arguing that the Trump administration has a new policy of detaining asylum seekers, rather than releasing them while their cases proceed.
More than 1,000 people were detained under the policy, the groups say.
And the National Lawyers Guild filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York arguing the administration broke the law in deciding to phase out protected status for Haitians who’ve been free from fear of deportation since the 2010 earthquake.
That lawsuit cites Mr. Trump’s alleged characterization of Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as “s—hole” countries during a White House meeting on TPS policy.
Homeland Security’s decision on Haiti came months before Mr. Trump’s remarks, but the new lawsuit says the president’s views have poisoned his administration’s decision-making, causing the department to short-circuit the process.
“His administration’s rescission of Haiti’s TPS is part of his irrational and discriminatory agenda,” the lawsuit charges.
REVILLA LAW FIRM, P.A.
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