U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Systemic Denial of Entry to Asylum Seekers at Ports of Entry on U.S.-Mexico Border

January 13, 2017
A coalition of immigrant and civil rights groups filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on behalf of numerous adult men and women, families and unaccompanied children who, over the past several months, were denied entry to the United States at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border despite having asserted a fear of returning to their home countries or an intention to seek asylum under U.S. law. The complaint urges a prompt and thorough investigation into these allegations and immediate action to address this alarming new trend. 
The complaint, filed by the American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Women’s Refugee Commission, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc., Kino Border Initiative, Public Counsel and ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, highlights reports of noncitizens attempting to present themselves at ports of entry – including San Ysidro, Nogales, El Paso, Reynosa, and others – who have been turned away by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers who gave them various forms of misinformation. Despite the U.S. government’s legal obligations to give those fleeing persecution an opportunity to seek asylum, many individuals reported having been told by CBP officers that they could not apply for asylum, that they required visas in order to enter the United States, or that they must ask for asylum from Mexican immigration officials before doing so at U.S. ports of entry. As a result, many such individuals, including those fleeing harm in Mexico, have been turned away with the misimpression that the United States is no longer receiving asylum seekers, while others, including young children, have been exposed to continued persecution and threats while waiting in Mexico, sometimes for extended periods, for an opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States.

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