More than 125 migrant mothers and children detained at the South Texas Family Resdiential Center filed suit Monday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against new regulations for asylum seekers concerning the evaluation of “credible fear.”
Credible fear refers to the asylum seeker’s showing of a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their home country. The previous version of the credible fear review process included an initial interview with an asylum officer and a right to judicial review of the determination by an immigration judge. There was a low threshold at the credible fear stage to ensure that asylum claims that were potentially valid could be developed properly, and to ensure that credible claims were not summarily removed.
The credible fear expedited removal process was changed with the new rule passed earlier this year, which seeks to ban asylum applications from asylum seekers who pass through a third country and do not first apply for asylum there before applying in the US.
According to the complaint, “The dramatic instability” since July 16 in the credible fear screening process has “prejudiced Plaintiffs … [and has] effectively denied them their right to be oriented to the credible fear process … to participate in the proceedings and to meaningfully understand what laws are applicable to them.” The new policies are allegedly depriving plaintiffs of their right to pursue their claims for protection, putting these mothers and children at risk if returned to their home countries.
The plaintiffs argue that the new policies violate the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Refugee Act, are arbitrary and capricious, and are contrary to law under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Plaintiffs also allege that these policies violate separation of powers and the right to due process. Furthermore, plaintiffs argue that these regulations were put in place without following the notice and comment requirements for rule-making.
The Justice Department has not yet responded to the claim.