The Tahirih Justice Center, with pro bono law firm Orrick LLP, is celebrating success in a lawsuit against the U.S. government for its failure to adjudicate long-overdue asylum applications.
A group lawsuit lifted up the asylum claims of seventeen survivors of gender-based violence who have waited at least five years for an interview since applying for asylum. After these clients filed their applications, USCIS changed its longstanding policy on prioritizing interviews. Historically, asylum offices usually schedule interviews based on the date of the application, with earlier-filed applications scheduled first. But in 2018, the government reversed that policy, prioritizing the most recently filed applications. Given the ever-growing number of applications filed each year, that “last-in-first-out” policy means our clients – who have already waited between five and eight years – would face many more years before seeing an interview. In fact, if the pace of applications continues unabated, these survivors would never be interviewed at all.
In the meantime, they have lost benefits and opportunities, including education, scholarships, job promotions and salary increases. Worse, some of them have been separated from their children all this time because they cannot file on behalf of their dependents until they receive a decision on their applications. Their evidence has grown stale, and their memories have faded. And all of them have lived for years under the shadow of uncertain legal status, with all the associated stress and anxiety.
After we filed our lawsuit, the asylum offices responded by scheduling interviews for all seventeen plaintiffs within the next few months. Our clients are relieved that their long wait is over, and they are excited to have the chance to prove their eligibility for asylum.