On Thursday, a federal judge in Seattle ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must begin notifying immigrants of their impending deadlines to file for asylum. The judge found that DHS has routinely failed to notify asylum seekers of their one-year deadline to file for asylum, which puts them at risk of being forced to return to the countries where they fear persecution.
Often, after asylum seekers are released from ICE custody after giving credible fear interviews, they are told by the DHS that they will need to appear in immigration court, but they are never personally told about their one-year deadline to file for asylum. Additionally, because there is a backlog in immigration cases, their hearing dates are often scheduled later than a year away, and by the time they get to court, they are told they have already missed their deadline to apply for asylum.
The federal judge ruled that the DHS has to provide notice about the one-year deadline within 90 days any time any immigrant seeking asylum is released from ICE custody. He also said the DHS must give those who missed the deadline another year to file their applications. Although the government argued that they publish materials that mention the one-year deadline, the judge stated that many asylum-seekers have gone through severe stress and trauma, and are not legal experts, so personal notifications to each asylum-seeker are necessary.
Further, while asylum-seekers must apply for within a year, the government refuses to accept the applications unless the applicant has been given a formal notice to appear (NTA) in immigration court. These NTAs are often not even sent out within one year, so there is no way for asylum-seekers to meet their one-year deadline. The judge ordered the government to come up with a uniform way to accept asylum applications. He asserted that technical deficiencies should no longer be a cause for returning immigrants to a place where they fear harm and persecution.