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Last month, lawyers with Public Counsel, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and the law firm Goodwin Procter sued to block the Trump administration from continuing to enforce the new policy, alleging that it violates the Constitution and the trafficking victims protection act. Lawyers said they’d already heard of numerous asylum denials based on the policy.
Earlier this month, a U.S. district judge in Maryland temporarily halted the policy from continuing and ordered the government to “retract any adverse decision already rendered in an individual case” under the new rules and reinstate the previous rules for asylum seekers.
KIND President Wendy Young said that advocates spent decades building protections into law that accommodate the needs and vulnerabilities of immigrant children.
“What’s taken us 15 years to build is taking them two years to tear down,” she said. “Now we’re in a completely different political landscape, where they’re trying to pull us backward in time and treat these children like adults again.”
Even so, Young said that the public outrage over the family separation policy last summer gave her hope.
“That was a strong reminder that people still care,” she said. “Particularly when these measures impact children, it awakens something in us as people.”
Scott Shuchart, legal strategy director at KIND, said that processing a child’s asylum claim poses a number of challenges beyond those facing adults. Trauma could impair a young person’s ability to promptly file for asylum, he said. And it could be weeks before they’re released from government custody and their sponsor or family finds a lawyer.
After clearing those hurdles, the child could require therapy before they’re ready to address what happened to them.
“There are reasons you do things different for children,” said Shuchart, a former DHS official who resigned last year over the administration’s migrant family separation policy. “They are dependent on an adult being available and competent enough to do things for them.”
A spokeswoman said it is USCIS policy not to comment on pending litigation. But in a previous interview with The Times, spokeswoman Jessica Collins said that “Congress must reform the law to address the underlying issues fueling the border crisis and encouraging unaccompanied minors to make the dangerous journey to the United States.”