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Monday, January 24, 2022

Court dates missed after being put into harm’s way, advocates urge second chance for asylum-seekers

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When a U.S. court closes an asylum case in absentia, it issues a removal order that bans the migrant from seeking U.S. immigration relief for 10 years,” the Post reported. “Attorneys and advocates are asking the administration to reopen MPP cases that were closed in absentia and give asylum seekers a chance to continue their applications.” There are likely many more like Carolina. Human Rights Watch, which has documented violence against asylum-seekers subject to the policy, said in a January 2021 report that it has “tracked at least 1,314 public reports of violent attacks against people subjected to MPP.”

In one instance described by the Post, the asylum case for a 17-year-old teenager who had been kidnapped as he and his family waited in Mexico for their U.S. immigration court date was closed even after his mother “told the judge that her son had gone missing and that she had filed a missing person’s report.” His mother’s case remains ongoing even as his has been shut down, striking fears that the family may be ripped apart. “I don’t want us to be separated,” his mother, Beatriz, told the Post. “It would be terrible.”

There were also other reasons why asylum-seekers missed their cases through no fault of their own. BuzzFeed News reported in 2019 that immigration agents had reportedly listed asylum-seekers’ street addresses as “Facebook” on government forms critical to their cases. This matters because if an immigration court date or location changes and an asylum-seeker needs to be notified, that’s where it goes. The Los Angeles Times reported that year that other officers had written “known address,” or something close to that, instead of the required address.

Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) welcomed news last February that the Biden administration would allowing into the U.S. asylum-seekers forced to wait in Mexico, but also urged a redress for people unjustly denied a fair chance at safety by the prior administration.

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“It’s commendable that the Biden administration is following through on its commitment to end this policy and address the humanitarian crisis it has created at the border,” SPLCA Senior Supervising Attorney Melissa Crow said. “But the administration must work to expand this effort to ensure that everyone affected by this policy has a meaningful opportunity to present their asylum claim—including people who received removal orders without even being able to attend their hearings and those with pending appeals.”

And including people seeking safety who were then subjected to horrific violence, and as a result of that violence, lost their chance at permanent relief. 

“MPP deprived people of due process and fundamental fairness,” Haiyun Damon-Feng, Adelante Pro Bono Project director and assistant director of the William H. Gates Public Service Law Program at the University of Washington School of Law, told the Post. “In order to restore access to asylum in a meaningful way, the Biden administration needs to reopen cases for people ordered removed under MPP and allow them to pursue their claims safely from within the United States.”



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