Groups File Lawsuit Over Detention Facility in Artesia, N.M.

A Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief has been filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia stemming from the government’s “zero tolerance” response to the recent influx into the United States of migrant women and children from Central America.

The plaintiffs are mothers and children who claim they arrived in the United States fleeing persecution in their home countries of El Salvador and Honduras. They are represented in the lawsuit by attorneys affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, and National Immigration Law Center, among others.

Defendants are Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and various other individuals from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, all sued in their official capacities.

Plaintiffs, who have been held at a geographically remote detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, claim that Defendants violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and denied them protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, by subjecting Plaintiffs to new expedited removal procedures and policies. The Complaint alleges that Defendants’ implementation of the new expedited removal process represents an unwarranted departure from existing practices, making it all but certain that many with bona fide asylum claims will be prejudged and returned to their countries of origin to face serious harm, injury or death.

Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants have set up a series of substantive and procedural roadblocks, including misapplying the law governing credible fear determinations and denying Plaintiffs access to counsel, as part of an unlawful system of deporting Central Americans en masse — at the expense of providing Plaintiffs a “meaningful opportunity” to apply for asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT relief.

In addition to requesting the Court to declare that Defendants’ new expedited removal practices are “contrary to law” and to enjoin Defendants from continuing these allegedly unlawful practices, Plaintiffs are also seeking, among other things, an order requiring Defendants to restore the full range of protections and safeguards afforded persons applying for asylum and other forms of immigration relief authorized under existing law.

More information about the lawsuit can be found here.

Timothy D. Widman is a Immigration Attorney and the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman, with offices in San Jose and Cupertino.