The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with Fish & Richardson P.C., today filed a new lawsuit challenging a Trump-era anti-immigrant rule and seeking to bring seven asylum-seekers to safety.
The lawsuit challenges a Trump administration policy that expels asylum-seekers from the southern United States border under the auspices of a public health measure—even if the person is fleeing danger and seeking protection in the U.S. Unlawfully invoking the Public Health Service Act, located in Title 42 of the U.S. Code, the Trump administration authorized Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to detain and expel migrants, including unaccompanied minors and families, without following any procedural requirements of U.S. immigration law. To date, the Biden administration has not repealed the Title 42 order.
“Throughout his presidency, Trump dismantled legal protections for people seeking safety in our country—and under the guise of public health, he caused more suffering for asylum-seekers,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Our fight for these families continues, until and unless the Biden administration ends this cruel practice once and for all.”
According to the new ACLU lawsuit, seven asylum-seekers—including four children—were each unlawfully expelled by the DHS in October and November 2020 under the Title 42 order. One plaintiff is an unaccompanied child who, facing persecution and violence, fled her home in Guatemala to seek safety with family in Massachusetts; instead of referring her to an immigration judge—consistent with protections in effect for unaccompanied minors—DHS simply detained her and then put her on a plane back to Guatemala. Other plaintiffs include two Central American families that were expelled and left stranded in dangerous Mexican border cities, despite their pleas to U.S. officials for help.
“It is an honor to work with the ACLU on this important case,” said Adam Kessel, the principal who is leading the Fish & Richardson team. “We are proud of the work we are doing to reunite families seeking legal refuge in the U.S. Many families in our immigration system are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries and are forced to risk their lives by being expelled to dangerous areas under the unlawful Title 42 order. We look forward to advocating for these brave asylum-seekers in court.”
Between April 1, 2020 and October 31, 2020, U.S. Border Patrol made nearly 308,000 expulsions under Title 42, despite the fact that Title 42 authorizes quarantines, not expulsions. Public health experts have also criticized the rule, noting that it singles out asylum-seekers without any public health rationale.
In November 2020, the ACLU won a preliminary injunction in a class action lawsuit challenging the Title 42 order on behalf of unaccompanied children fleeing danger and seeking protection in the U.S. On January 29, a federal appeals court stayed the injunction, permitting the expulsion of unaccompanied minors as the case is litigated. Despite the ruling, the Biden administration stated that its policy is not to expel unaccompanied children. In January 2021, the ACLU filed a class action suit seeking to stop the expulsion of migrant families under Title 42.