DC Judge Orders ICE to Stop Detaining Asylum Seekers

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 05, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal judge ordered immigration officials to stop detaining legitimate asylum-seekers, ending the detention of many immigrants who have been held since President Trump took office.

Judge James Boasberg issued a preliminary injunction ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement to follow its own directive to release people pending their petitions for political asylum. In Damus v. Nielsen, the judge set out a process for ICE to release them until they get full hearings.

"Having extended the safeguards of the Parole Directive to asylum-seekers, ICE must now ensure that such protections are realized," he said.

"More in the Breach"

The plaintiffs filed their complaint against the government in March, saying they had been denied parole in violation of the Parole Directive. They also alleged violations of various federal laws, including the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, and sought injunctive relief.

The government asked the court to dismiss the case, but the judge denied the request. Instead, Judge Boasberg observed that the government's parole rate for asylum seekers had dropped from 90 percent to almost zero. He then granted the motion for injunctive relief. 

"In doing so, this Opinion does no more than hold the Government accountable to its own policy, which recently has been honored more in the breach than the observance," Boasberg wrote in his 38-page opinion.

The Damus decision gave relief to all the plaintiffs -- including one who had been detained for 18 months.

Detained for 18 Months

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented them, pointed to Ansly Damus -- the named plaintiff. He sought asylum, and a judge granted it to him.

"Despite that, he has remained behind bars while the government appealed his grants of asylum," the ACLU said in a statement. "The Trump administration had put Damus behind bars indefinitely alongside thousands of other asylum seekers like him."

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