Story at a glance

  • A Seattle court supervised a settlement that will allow more than 300 refugees to resubmit their asylum cases and have them evaluated.
  • This is meant to alleviate some of the backlog created by President Trump’s 2017 travel bans.
  • Refugees include translators and interpreters who fought alongside U.S. troops in Iraq.

As part of a settlement filed Monday in federal court in Seattle, the Trump administration has conceded to expedite the asylum and refugee cases that have been stalled under the travel ban imposed about three years ago.  

The cases, which heretofore have seen little action, mainly involve former interpreters for the U.S. military based in Iraq, in addition to more than 300 other refugees, according to an Associated Press (AP) report

Many of these applicants were described as “on the verge” of obtaining asylum in America before President Trump’s travel ban was put in place in 2017. These refugees are largely from countries with a large Muslim population, such as Iran and Egypt. 

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Lisa Nowlin, one of the lead attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, which sued in this case, told reporters that the government intended to keep these families apart under the guise of national security, and that “this settlement aims to undo the harmful effects of the illegal and misguided ban on refugees.”

The case was presented before the U.S. District Judge James Robart, who made headlines in early 2017 for blocking Trump’s first travel ban, which included companion refugee restrictions.

Once Robart blocked those bans, however, the futures of many cases were left unclear. Bureaucratic issues and backlog ensued, resulting in delays in application processing. 

Plaintiffs represented by the ACLU of Washington included Iraq war veterans vouching for translators and interpreters who served alongside U.S. forces, as well as refugees petitioning to have their families come to the U.S. from refugee camps abroad. 

The settlement will hasten the application process for many of these cases, but it will not guarantee automatic entry to the U.S. 

“What the administration did really messed up their cases,” Mariko Hirose, the litigation director of the New York-based International Refugee Assistance Project, told AP. “This settlement is aimed at making sure that people who were affected by the ban are able to get their cases adjudicated and hopefully come to the U.S. very quickly.”

Published on Feb 10, 2020