Federal Litigation

ASISTA's goal is to 1) coordinate impact litigation that challenges policies that endanger immigrant survivors and 2) expand our technical assistance to impact litigators wishing to incorporate immigrant survivors and their issues into their efforts to advance the rights of immigrants generally.

    ASISTA Litigation Resource Materials

    Challenging Albence Authority to Make Policy

    Lawsuit Filed Challenging ICE for its Abrupt Policy Change on Stays for Immigrant Crime Survivors

    Changes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy were announced August 2, 2019 that create significant additional barriers for victims of crime who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of their crimes. ASISTA, represented by Protect Democracy and the Constitutional Accountability Center, filed suit today in Connecticut to challenge the legality of this policy and to show the harm it presents to victims who are U visa petitioners nationwide.

    ASISTA challenges this policy based on the fact that Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence, who signed off on this new ICE Directive, was serving illegally in violation of the Appointments Clause of the Constitution and federal statutes.  The law requires that the Director of ICE be confirmed by the Senate; however, there has not been a Senate-confirmed ICE Director for more than three years now. ICE must be held accountable for violating the law, and for creating barriers for immigrant survivors of violence seeking protection and relief.

    Gail Pendleton, Executive Director of ASISTA states, “This new policy is an egregious attack on due process. It serves as another example of this Administration’s attempt to erode, through policy changes, the bipartisan protections Congress created and expanded for immigrant survivors over the past 25 years. Deporting survivors of rape, kidnapping, domestic violence and other serious crimes who help law enforcement makes our communities much less safe.”

    Cecelia Friedman Levin, ASISTA’s Policy Director states, “This new ICE policy exposes immigrant survivors of crime who come forward to help law enforcement to precisely the risk they sought to avoid and from which a bipartisan majority in Congress sought to protect them.”


    The new ICE policy changed the process and criteria by which ICE would consider a “stay of removal” for victims of crime who are eligible for U visas.   The bipartisan U visa program was created by Congress in 2000 to provide a path to legal immigration status for noncitizen survivors of crimes who are helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crimes against them.

    The new ICE guidance eliminates important procedural safeguards, which will lead to an increased risk that survivors will be deported before their cases are decided. Unlike the prior policy which encouraged stays of deportation for U visa applicants for meritorious applications, this new guidance leaves decisions up to individual ICE officers to consider the “totality of the circumstances” including evaluating “any federal interests implicated” in deciding whether halting deportation is appropriate.  This new vague standard creates inconsistent and arbitrary results for survivors with pending U visa matters.

    A copy of the Complaint is here, a copy of the Memo in Support of Summary Judgment is here, a copy of the Plaintiffs’ Statement of Material Facts is available here, and a copy of Plaintiff’s Reply Memo on Summary Judgment is here. (Click here to download the Plaintiffs's Reply in Word version).

    On March 18, 2021, ICE agreed not to (1) deny stay requests for U visa petitioners; (2) remove U visa petitioners; or (3) oppose motions to continue for U visa petitioners, subject to certain exceptions, for 90 days. 

    Joint Status Report


    Practice Update: ICE Agrees Not to Remove, Deny Requests for Stay of Removal, or Oppose Continuances for U Visa Petitioners for 90 Days (March 22, 2021)

    On March 18, 2021, Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer granted the parties’ joint motion to stay the proceedings for 90 days subject to specific interim conditions. These conditions prohibit ICE from (1) denying a request for stay for U visa petitioners; (2) removing U visa petitioners; or (3) opposing a motion to continue for U visa petitioners during the 90 day period, subject to certain exceptions. This update informs practitioners of the terms of the agreement and potential implications for representing U visa clients.

    Albence Practice Advisory (Update 6/21/2021): Stay Extended through July 2, 2021 

    The stay in ASISTA v. Johnson (formerly known as ASISTA v. Albence) has been extended through July 2, 2021 while the parties continue discussions regarding an additional 90 day stay. Our practice advisory has been updated accordingly. 

    Albence Practice Advisory (Update 7/12/2021): Stay Extended through August 13, 2021 

    The stay in ASISTA v. Johnson (formerly known as ASISTA v. Albence) has been extended through August 13, 2021. Our practice advisory has been updated accordingly. 

    Sample Litigation Complaint

    Sample APA Complaint for USCIS Fee Waiver Denial

    Harvey Reiter at Stinson LLP and Lindsey Greising at The Advocates for Human Rights developed a template APA complaint for USCIS fee waiver denials. This is a template and will need to be customized to each individual case. This document is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. 

    General Survivor Litigation Materials

    September 2017 Webinar: New Tools for Furthering/Defending the Rights of VAWA & U Crime Survivors: Let's Go to Federal District Court!

    We discuss creative ways to use various kinds of federal court filings to address the many barriers and challenges now facing immigrant survivors, including delays in decision-making, expanded detention and removal, and systematic misapplication of the law by CIS and ICE. We will review basic federal court concepts/issues you must address, and identify next steps you should take to build the skills you need to effectively help the survivors you serve.

    May 2018 ASISTA Presentation: Going to Federal Court

    Presented at the University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphries School of Law by Julie Carpenter, Tahirih Justice Center; Kate Melloy Goettel, National Immigrant Justice Center; and  moderated by Gail Pendleton, ASISTA. 

    U Visa Delay Issues/Habeas for Survivors

    December 2019 Webinar: Stopping Survivor Removals

    We discuss skills and strategies for deterring and stopping survivor removals, including asking the federal courts to ensure your survivors are not removed while awaiting a USCIS decision on their cases.

    August 2019 Webinar After the new ICE Memo: Now How Do We Stop Survivor Removals?

    It appears that ICE will be significantly amending its practice on stays for U applicants, and we believe they plan to completely eliminate the prima facie (PF) system for Us, including those in detention and removal. Join us for a webinar on emerging strategies for stopping survivor removals in light of this in these developments. We will discuss strategies for both individual cases and litigation attacking elimination of the PF system.

    Presentation on U Visa Delay Litigation

    Presented by Stephen Manning: Bringing a Federal Action to Compel USCIS to Adjudicate U Visa Applications.

    EAD/Waitlist Issues

    Waitlist/Habeas Sample Complaint

    To download the complaint in Word version, click here.

    October 2019 Presentation: Litigation for Survivors

    Presented by Richard Calderone (U EAD, habeas)

    Rodriguez v Duke

    Complaint. Click here to download the Complain in Word version

    Memo in support of summary judgment. Click here to download the memo in Word version.

    ASISTA amicus briefing Many thanks to Celso Perez and Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli & Pratt for crafting the brief for us, to Julie Carpenter of Tahirih Justice Center and our other core group drafters, and to all the organizations that signed on. Click here to download the Amicus Brief on Bona Fide EAD for U Applicants in Word version.