Challenging Obstacles to Meeting The One Year Filing Deadline for Filing An Asylum Application

Challenging Obstacles to Meeting The One Year Filing Deadline for Filing An Asylum Application

Mendez-Rojas v. Johnson, No. 2:16-cv-01024-RSM (W.D. Wash. filed June 30, 2016)


Although the immigration statute requires immigrants seeking asylum to file their applications within one year of arriving in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has long failed to notify asylum seekers of this important deadline. Furthermore, DHS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review have not created a mechanism that allows all asylum seekers the opportunity to file their applications in a timely manner.

On June 30, 2016, the American Immigration Council and its partners filed a class action lawsuit challenging these practices on behalf of asylum seekers who enter the United States and are released from immigration custody without notice of the one-year filing deadline. The case was filed by the Council, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Dobrin & Han, PC, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

The court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification on January 10, 2017, and on October 30, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment.

On March 29, 2018, the District Court granted the motion for summary judgment. The court found that the failure to provide all class members with notice of the one-year asylum application period violates Congressional intent to ensure that asylum is available for those with legitimate claims of asylum. Thus, the failure to provide notice violates the APA and the INA. In addition, the lack of notice – where, among other problems, the information class members were provided  was confusing and misleading and where class members are particularly vulnerable -  violates the 5th Amendment Due Process Clause. Finally, the lack of an adequate mechanism to timely file their asylum applications violates class members’ statutory right to apply for asylum and the APA.

The court ordered Defendants:

  • To adopt within 90 days, a notice of the one-year filing deadline, in consultation with class members, and to thereafter provide notice to all class members who have already been released from DHS custody.  For all future class members who have not been released, DHS Defendants shall provide notice prior to or at the time of release from custody;
  • To accept as timely filed any asylum application from a class member that is filed within one year of the date of adoption of the notice; and
  • To adopt and publicize, within 120 days and in consultation with class members, uniform procedural mechanisms that will ensure class members are able to file their asylum applications in a timely manner, and to thereafter immediately implement this procedure.

Plaintiffs’ counsel has issued a Frequently Asked Questions regarding initial implementation of the court’s order.

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