Judge denies a DOJ request to delay deadlines in asylum case

A federal judge has denied a Justice Department request, because of the shutdown, to pause all deadlines in ...

Posted: Dec 28, 2018 7:57 AM
Updated: Dec 28, 2018 7:57 AM

A federal judge has denied a Justice Department request, because of the shutdown, to pause all deadlines in a DC federal court case challenging the administration's asylum restrictions.

Judge Randolph Moss wrote that those challenging the asylum restrictions view this as a case related to human safety and as such, despite the shutdown, deadlines for case filings remain in place. The next briefs are due to the court on January 4.

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On Wednesday, government attorneys asked the court to delay "all briefing deadlines" in a lawsuit brought on behalf of six people who were barred from seeking asylum because they entered the United States illegally.

Trump signed a proclamation in November that attempted to prevent migrants who cross the southern border illegally from seeking asylum. However, soon after, a judge in California blocked the administration's policy.

The Justice Department told the court that absent an appropriation, attorneys and the federal defendants are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."

Similar DOJ requests were made in multiple ongoing federal civil litigation cases on Wednesday.

The government asked Moss to indefinitely delay the briefing schedule and production of an administrative record until attorneys were allowed to resume usual litigation activities, adding that they "greatly regret" any disruption to the case.

In his order, Moss quotes from administration shutdown staffing plans, saying there are people working in the immigration courts office as well as DHS: "The Court further notes that, according to government reports, 48% of employees from the Executive Office for Immigration Review are excepted 'to process all immigration cases and appeals involving detained aliens,' ... and approximately 91% of Customs and Border Protection employees and 81% of Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees will be retained during a lapse in appropriations."

During the shutdown, immigration courts will proceed as scheduled with "detained" cases -- hearings of people currently in detention. However, "non-detained" cases will be rescheduled after funding resumes, according to the Justice Department website.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Moss's ruling, and the plaintiffs in the case did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

Moss did agree to one aspect of the Justice Department's request -- to produce the administrative record that would be "identical" to the document produced in the California federal court asylum lawsuit. Both cases challenge the administration's asylum restrictions, but raise different legal arguments.

Attorneys for the asylum seekers did "not consent" to the Justice Department's delay request, but took no position on the production of the administrative record, according to the court filing.

"The Court plainly considered the government's stay request carefully. We are gratified the Court recognizes the urgency of our claims and is permitting our clients' challenge to the Administration's asylum bar to move forward as scheduled," said Human Rights First Legal Director Hardy Vieux on behalf of his organization and the National Immigrant Justice Center -- the groups that brought the lawsuit.

In an unrelated case, Moss granted the Justice Department's request to pause deadlines in a lawsuit involving Democratic senators' request for additional Kavanaugh-related documents brought under the Freedom of Information Act.

Also in another immigration related case involving credible fear screenings and determinations, Judge Emmet Sullivan granted the Justice Department's ask to place a hold on deadlines.

In that case, the judge told the government to notify the court when appropriations are restored or if a continuing resolution is enacted.

In another case related to family separation, Judge Paul L. Friedman also agreed to the government's unopposed request to suspend all case deadlines in light of the government shutdown.

DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec declined to comment on Wednesday regarding the department's multiple requests for a delays.

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