Trump Administration Is Illegally Turning Away Asylum Seekers

When President Trump announced on Monday that he planned to send some 5,000 military troops to fortify the southern border, even his supporters were quick to dismiss this as a political stunt. A convoy of migrants, many of whom are families with young children fleeing violence, is not a threat to the United States. 

There is a crisis unfolding at the border, but it is not the one the Trump administration would have its supporters believe. The real problem at the border is that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been violating its legal obligations and mistreating immigrants — including by refusing to accept legitimate asylum applications. 

Although both U.S. and international law dictate that noncitizens arriving at our borders have a right to apply for asylum and other forms of protection, the Trump administration has been routinely turning them away, a policy for which it is already being sued. Since June, CBP has stationed its agents mid-bridge to summarily turn away asylum seekers along the Texas border where international bridges at ports of entry span the Rio Grande. These are the ports of entry that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have told asylum seekers to go to. 

CPB claims that it is at capacity and doesn’t have the personnel to process the asylum seekers, but given the empty waiting rooms we’ve routinely seen, this is difficult to believe. CBP is the country’s largest law enforcement agency and in 2018 it has processed 1.1 million fewer people arriving at our southern border than crossed in the year 2000. At that time, the agency had less than half the budget and at least 10,000 fewer officers. 

On October 17, the ACLU received word that the Paseo del Norte Port of Entry had capacity to process arriving families, but agents on the international bridge were still telling families that they were full. When we arrived on site to call out the contradiction, the two border patrol agents blocking 30 families who were huddled on the bridge in freezing temperatures suddenly turned around and walked away, allowing the families to proceed into the port of entry. CBP said it was “a miscommunication.” 

The families — which included a group of mothers carrying toddlers — said that CBP told them in Spanish, “You cannot pass, there is no room.” One mother recounted an agent telling her, “I don’t care about your child, many younger kids have come and we don’t let them pass.” 

Several families camped out on the bridge that day had narrowly escaped kidnapping the night prior and feared their fate if U.S. agents forced them off the bridge back into downtown Ciudad Juarez. It is not an idle fear. CBP has been working with its Mexican counterpart to do its dirty work — Mexican agents have been removing waiting asylum seekers from the international bridges. 

Such coordination not only breaks international law, it exposes vulnerable migrants to the extreme violence and frequent kidnappings in border towns like Reynosa. Lawyers in south Texas are taking their concerns to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with a complaint detailing the dire consequences of CBP’s policies and Mexico’s role in the matter. 

For months, the ACLU and other organizations have been asking CBP to clarify why it is refusing to process asylum seekers at the border. We have inquired at all levels of CBP, from port supervisors to Commissioner Kevin McAleenan himself. We have received only amorphous, vague responses. 

So on October 29, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking immediate answers to basic questions about CBP’s policies at international bridges. What is the agency’s capacity to process asylum seekers at ports of entry? Are agents even counting how many asylum seeker they are turning away to inform what capacity they need? These questions, among many others, must be urgently answered if we are to hold government agents accountable for turning back refugees to dangerous conditions and possibly death. 

CBP must comply with U.S. and international law and process all asylum seekers if it truly believes we are a nation of laws and if it wishes to maintain any level of integrity as a federal agency. 

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Anonymous

IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO TURN THOSE INVADERS AWAY BECAUSE THEY REFUSED ASYLUM IN MEXICO WHICH BROKE INTERNATIONAL LAWS

Mexico has gang violence and corrupt government problems of its own, and gang members have an easier time getting to them there than across the border in the US.

Anonymous

THESE PEOPLE ACT LIKE THEY ARE FRIENDLY WHEN IN REALITY THEY ARE HERE TO MAKE SURE TO TAKE AMERICANS JOBS --JOIN THEIR UNIONS --AND TO MAKE AMERICANS FAMILIES HOMELESS DUE TO AMERICAS HOUSING CRISIS

Anonymous

ALLOWING THESE PEOPLE TO COME INTO AMERICA IN THIS FASHION WILL CREATE MILLIONS OF MORE PEOPLE TO COME INTO AMERICA -- WHICH WILL DESTROY THE SOCIAL SERVICE SYSTEMS

jeff

some say well its only 7000 poor immigrants , the truth is it 7000 more poor immigrants added to the 30million already here , and millions watching to see what happens to the 7000 to go

Anonymous

I say keep all asylum seekers lock up until their case is heard. Make sure that they are telling the truth. Make sure that they have money to support themselves and their children so that American taxpayers doesn’t have to support them. Make sure that they have to pay for their children education and not American taxpayers. Make sure that they cannot get welfare, food stamps and other social services. No more uneducated poor people in America. No more anchor babies. E-Verify in every state. No work permits for them let their families support them

We should treat poor people differently if they're born into poverty in a foreign country than if they're born into poverty here? Even if they're telling the truth? That's backwards and illegal.

Anonymous

? The poor people that are American need are help first not illegal aliens their countries need to help their own citizens not American taxpayers. Every illegal aliens cry and whine about gangs and abuser but they never do anything but run can they banned together and fight instead of running away. It not the American taxpayers responsibility to take illegal aliens or asylum seekers. If asylum seekers want to come to America they should have the money to support themselves while they wait for case to move forward and not depend on social services,food stamps or chip or medical services. But we all these illegal aliens going to th emergency room and guess who paying for these American taxpayers.

Anonymous

why are you so concern about illegals when the middle class is the one paying for these immigrants. Its not coming out of your pocket I see because you ask for donations. If your so American why are you not representing the homeless family, kids and vets across America . instead of representing illegals. I see pregnant women with 1 or 2 children coming in a cross the border there are coming to leach of the welfare not to work.

Anonymous

Why doesn’t ACLU give birth control pills in poor countries do they women don’t have 10 children or more. Help those women with education about having so many children If you read their name of lawyers and who wrote the article some of them have names that are from a different countries. Yes the middle class pays for everything until their is no middle class anymore. They love to spout everything on illegal aliens but they hate Americans citizens and children.

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