Federal Court Rules that Challenge to Trump’s Asylum Turnback Policy Will Move Forward

July 30, 2019

WASHINGTON – A federal district court has rejected the government’s second attempt to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's unlawful turnbacks of asylum seekers who present themselves at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border – including its attempt to choke off asylum applications through a so-called “metering” process.

"We have seen the tragic human consequences of the Turnback Policy on thousands of vulnerable people who, after making a long, harrowing journey to escape their persecutors, face bullying and rejection by Customs and Border Protection officers who simply tell them to turn around and wait in very dangerous conditions,” said Erika Pinheiro, litigation and policy director of plaintiff Al Otro Lado, an immigration legal services provider with offices in Mexico and California. “We are grateful that the court recognized that the administration cannot evade its legal obligations by denying access to the asylum process."

“This is an important ruling in our fight against CBP turnbacks of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border through metering and other tactics, said Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC’s) Immigrant Justice Project. “This policy was one of the first of many implemented by this administration in the course of its ongoing war on asylum seekers. It is also a serious setback to the government’s efforts to undermine and evade our country’s domestic and international legal obligations, all while demonizing asylum seekers in the public’s eye.”

The lawsuit, AOL v. McAleenan, challenges the government’s efforts to impede access to the asylum process at the U.S. southern border.

"This decision powerfully affirms the force and scope of this nation's binding commitment to the principles of asylum and due process and resoundingly rejects this significant part of the administration's multi-faceted attack on asylum seekers -- and our law," said Baher Azmy, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The U.S. government is legally obligated to protect individuals who qualify as asylum seekers. However, the Trump administration is doing everything it can to sidestep these obligations, strip the most vulnerable populations of their rights, and convince the American public via a campaign of misinformation that they lack capacity to process asylum seekers at the southern border.

In May, attorneys representing the SPLC and Center for Constitutional Rights argued against the government’s motion to dismiss. The SPLC, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the American Immigration Council filed the lawsuit, Al Otro Lado v. McAleenan, No. 3:17-cv-02366 (S.D. Cal.), in July 2017 on behalf of individual asylum seekers and Al Otro Lado. In November 2018, the organizations added additional individual plaintiffs who had been subjected to the administration’s metering process.     

The ruling can be seen here. For more information, click here.


 For more information, contact:

Maria Frausto at the American Immigration Council, [email protected] or 202-507-7526; 
Marion Steinfels at SPLC,  [email protected] or 202-557-0430;
Chandra Hayslett at the Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6458 or [email protected].

Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
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