A federal judge in Washington ruled Monday that the Trump administration is violating its own policy by uniformly denying parole to asylum-seekers who have passed their “credible fear” interviews — a key step in the asylum process.
In the decision, the court sided with the immigrants who brought the class action and ordered the Trump administration to restore the practice of granting fair, individual parole hearings to asylum-seekers who have passed that initial threshold. Prevailing at the parole hearing means that an asylum-seeker is released from detention and allowed to remain in the country pending a decision on their asylum petition, a process that can take several years.
“To mandate that ICE provide these baseline procedures to those entering our country–individuals who have often fled violence and persecution to seek safety on our shores–is no great judicial leap,” U.S. District Judge James Boasberg observed dryly.
Under the Trump administration, Boasberg wrote, “parole rates have plummeted from over 90% to nearly zero” and the Department of Homeland Security has shifted from individually considering whether each asylum-seeker should be granted parole until their hearing to uniformly denying such requests.
“The numbers here are irrefutable,” he notes in his opinion.
The American Civil Liberties Union, while fighting the Trump administration’s immigration policies on several fronts, brought the lawsuit on behalf of a group of asylum-seekers denied parole. One plaintiff, Ansly Damus, is a former ethics teacher fleeing political persecution in Haiti, who has been detained without parole in Ohio for more than a year and a half, despite asylum officers determining he had a credible fear of returning to his home country.
“I have not breathed fresh air or felt the sun on my face, and I never know if it is cold or hot outside, if the sun is out, and if the seasons are changing,” Damus said when the lawsuit was filed earlier this year, according to the ACLU.
The other plaintiffs in the case hail from El Salvador, Venezuela, and Cuba.
“This ruling means the Trump administration cannot use indefinite detention as a weapon to punish and deter asylum seekers,” the ACLU’s Michael Tan said in a statement sent to reporters following the court’s decision.
Read the full ruling here: