The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the American Immigration Council, Dobrin & Han, PC, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild recently filed a class action lawsuit in a federal district court in Washington State on behalf of immigrants who have been uninformed about the one-year asylum filing deadline, as well as those who have been prevented from filing due to long delays and unforgiving procedural rules in the immigration court system.

All immigrants have exactly 365 days to file for asylum from the date they arrive in the United States unless there are “changed circumstances.” Unlawfully arriving immigrants who fear returning to their native countries are detained, placed into removal proceedings and issued a Notice to Appear in immigration court, although a date is rarely set. The date is dependent on the immigration officers actually filing the Notice with the court. For whatever reason, this action is typically delayed months, sometimes over a year. In the meantime, immigrants cannot file for asylum even though the one-year deadline is looming. Furthermore, even when a date is set, immigrants can only properly file their asylum applications at a Master Calendar Hearing. More often than not, these Master Calendar Hearings are occurring more than one year after the immigrant first arrives.

This procedural problem is leaving immigrants in a bind. Even if they want to file for asylum and are prepared, they are prevented from doing so. To make matters worse, immigration officers are failing to inform immigrants of their need to file within one year. The result is that immigrants are denied their due process rights. Enough is enough. The lawyers for the plaintiffs are pressuring the immigration courts and DHS to enact a plan to correct this problem and restore the due process rights of asylum seekers who have been denied the ability to file their asylum claims. This litigation is likely to take several months, unless DOJ and DHS take responsibility for their shortcomings and address the problem themselves. Any statutory change to the actual one-year rule will have to come directly from Congress.