Congressman Panetta Introduces Legislation to Provide Asylum Seekers Judicial Discretion

July 12, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC –  Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) introduced the Providing Justice for Asylum Seekers Act.  The legislation ends mandatory in absentia, while absent, removal orders for asylum seekers by providing immigration judges discretion in the use of such orders.  The measure provides meaningful due process protections for families and children seeking asylum in the United States.

Current law mandates immigration judges issue deportation orders for asylum seeking individuals if they fail to appear in immigration court.  This mandatory requirement applies even when the immigration judge knows there are extraordinary circumstances preventing the individual from appearing in court. 

The Providing Justice for Asylum Seekers Act provides immigration judges with greater discretion about whether to order a noncitizen removed in absentia or, alternatively, reschedule the hearing based on the circumstances of the case.  It also provides more flexibility for asylum seeking children and families to reopen their cases if an immigration judge wrongly issues an in absentia order.

"Families and children who fled their home countries and legally sought asylum in the United States have already been removed without the chance to have their case heard by an immigration judge," said Congressman Panetta.  "My legislation ensures that asylum seekers get their day in court and that immigration judges have discretion when providing justice."

"Asylum-seeking families are in danger of being picked up in raids and deported to danger without ever having a chance to present their claims in court," said Swapna Reddy, Co-Executive Director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP).  "We are grateful to Congressman Panetta for taking action to bring justice to asylum seekers.  We hope many other members will join him and support his bill."