American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh (ABC) Settlement Agreement

Q: What Is the ABC Settlement Agreement?
A:  In 1985, a group of organizations (including American Baptist Churches) filed a lawsuit against the government. They claimed that the government discriminated against certain Guatemalans and Salvadorans who had filed for asylum. In 1990, the attorneys on both sides of the lawsuit agreed to settle the case outside of court. The agreement they made is commonly known as the “ABC Settlement Agreement.” The ABC Settlement Agreement provided some immigration benefits for certain Guatemalans and Salvadorans.

Q: What Are the Benefits of the ABC Settlement Agreement?
A: Guatemalans and Salvadorans who are eligible for benefits of the settlement agreement are entitled to the following benefits:

  • Stay of Deportation (Removal)
    No eligible class member may be deported (or removed) until he or she has had an opportunity to obtain the benefits of the Settlement Agreement.
  • A New Asylum Interview and Decision
    Individuals who meet the ABC requirements may receive a new asylum interview and a new decision. The new decision does not have to rely on or follow any previous decision.
  • Detention Restrictions
    Individuals who meet the ABC requirements may only be detained under the following circumstances:
    • The class member has been convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude” and received a jail sentence of more than 6 months
    • The class member poses a national security risk  
    • The class member poses a threat to public safety.

There are certain exceptions to these detention restrictions. For example, if an individual is likely to flee, we may require him or her to report to us twice a year.  Also, there are certain situations in which the law may require detention of individuals, even if they meet the ABC requirements. 

Employment AuthorizationAn individual who meets the ABC requirements may also be eligible to receive a work permit (Employment Authorization).

Q: Who Is Eligible for ABC Benefits?
A: To be eligible for ABC benefits, you must meet three requirements:

  • be a class member
  • have registered for ABC benefits at the right time
  • have applied for asylum before the required date

You may not be eligible for ABC benefits even if you meet these requirements if you were convicted of an aggravated felony or were apprehended at the time of entry after December 19, 1990.

Q: Who Is an ABC Class Member?
A:  Class members are defined by nationality and date of entry into the United States. 

  • If you are Guatemalan, you must have entered the United States on or before October 1, 1990.
  • If you are Salvadoran, you must have entered the United States on or before September 19, 1990.
  • You are not required to have been in the United States continuously; you may qualify even if you left the United States after entering.

Q: What Is ABC Registration?
A:  To be eligible for ABC benefits, an individual must have sent an ABC registration form to the USCIS ABC Project post office box in Washington, D.C. by the required date. 

You must have sent an ABC registration form to the Washington D.C. post office box by the following dates: 

  • On or before December 31, 1991, if you are Guatemalan; or
  • On or before October 31, 1991, if you are Salvadoran.o Salvadorans are also considered ABC registered if you applied for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) by the required date.

Q: What Were the Deadlines for Applying for Asylum under the ABC Settlement?
A: To be eligible for ABC benefits, an individual must have applied for asylum within a specified period of time.  Again, the dates depend on nationality:

  • If you are Guatemalan, you must have filed an asylum application on or before January 3, 1995.
  • If you are Salvadoran, must have applied for asylum on or before February 16, 1996 (for processing purposes), or within 90 days from issuance of a Notice 5.

Q: What is a Notice 5?
A:  The ABC Settlement Agreement required the government to give notice of the agreement to certain individuals. This notice is referred to as Notice 5 and was sent at the end of July 1995.

Notice 5 informed Salvadoran class members who applied for TPS that:

  • They had a right to new asylum adjudications.
  • In order to remain eligible for ABC benefits, they must apply for asylum by January 31, 1996, if an asylum application was not already on file with USCIS or EOIR.
  • They had the right to file a new application, even if they had an asylum application pending before USCIS or EOIR, but were not required to do so.

If you received a Notice 5, you have 90 days from the date of notice to apply for asylum under the ABC settlement agreement.

Q:  Are There Any Bars to Eligibility for ABC Benefits?
A: Yes.  Even if you meet all of the other requirements, you are barred from receiving ABC Benefits if:

  • You were convicted of an aggravated felony.
  • After December 19, 1990, you were apprehended at the time of entry into the United States.

Q:  If I Am Eligible for ABC Benefits, Are My Spouse and Children Eligible Too?
A:  Not necessarily.  Each person must establish his or her own eligibility for ABC benefits.  This means that your spouse or child may be eligible for ABC benefits only if he or she

  • Is a class member.
  • Has registered for ABC.
  • Has met the applicable deadline for applying for asylum.

Your spouse or child can meet the last requirement (filing for asylum by the applicable deadline) if you included them in your asylum application by the applicable deadline or by filing his or her own application by the filing deadline.

Q: What if My Spouse or Child Is No Longer Eligible to Be Included on My Asylum Application?
A:  A spouse or child who is no longer eligible to be included on your asylum application may still be eligible for ABC benefits if he or she is a registered ABC class member who you listed on your asylum application prior to the filing deadline.  To keep the ABC benefits, your family member must file his or her own asylum application within 90 days after USCIS notified him or her that they are no longer eligible to be included on your application. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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