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Chaly-Garcia v. United States

After the wars in Central America caused thousands of Guatemalans and El Salvadorans to flee to the United States seeking political asylum, the U.S. government engaged in systemic discrimination by denying almost all asylum applications.  This was because the U.S. government was on friendly terms with the Central American regimes and did not want to upset foreign policy concerns.  A group of lawyers, representing numerous churches and community organizations filed a lawsuit called the American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh lawsuit.  The U.S. government agreed to settle the lawsuit and the settlement is called the ABC Agreement  The ABC Agreement provided special protections for Central Americans in seeking asylum.

Some two decades after the ABC Agreement went into effect, the U.S. government still had not interviewed Mr. Chaly-Garica, a citizen of Guatemala, on his asylum application.  And, then, when they finally did, they determined that he had incorrectly registered for the ABC Agreement and therefore could not take advantage of its special procedures.  Mr. Chaly-Garcia disagreed, asserting that his filing of an asylum application during the time period was sufficient to give notice to the U.S. government and thus he was eligible for the special protections.  Mr. Chaly sued the U.S. government in United States District Court for the District of Oregon.  After he lost in the district court, he appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  On November 29, 2007, the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled in his favor thus making thousands more Central Americans eligible for special protections and permanent residence.

Our office prepared a Frequently Asked Questions for the public to interpret and apply the Chaly Garcia decision to their own cases.

The USCIS issued a memorandum in which they explained that they would apply the Chaly-Garcia decision nationwide.