Immigrant-rights groups sued the Homeland Security Department on Wednesday, claiming border officers are illegally stymieing desperate migrants’ attempts to seek asylum in the U.S.
For months, advocates had been complaining that Customs and Border Protection officers at the ports of entry were hostile to asylum-seekers who showed up at the border without permission, but with horror stories of conditions they faced back home.
In a class action lawsuit brought by Al Otro Lado and six anonymous migrants, they said CBP officers have lied, threatened to separate migrants from their families and even “forcefully removed” asylum seekers from the ports of entry, rather than hear their cases.
“CBP’s unlawful practice of turning asylum seekers away from POEs is forcing asylum seekers, including Class Plaintiffs, to return to Mexico and other countries where they remain susceptible to serious harm such as kidnapping, rape, trafficking, torture or even death,” the lawsuit says.
CBP declined to comment, citing the court case.
In the past, the agency has said officers abide by both U.S. and international laws, saying those that present themselves at the border are screened in accordance with guidelines.
The fight dates back to last year, under the Obama administration, but some activists say it’s gotten worse under President Trump.
According to a May report by Human Rights First, some border officers have even told asylum seekers that “Trump says we don’t have to let you in.” Human Rights First said it documented 125 cases of asylum seekers being turned away between November and April.
Amnesty International, in a June report, documented other cases.
The number of people filing asylum applications has doubled over the last two years.
Security analysts said the surge is partly due to lax enforcement under the Obama administration, but also to migrants learning how to game the system. Those who’ve made it to the U.S. coach relatives and friends on the “magic words” that earn them quick entry to the U.S., where they put down roots while awaiting a more thorough review.
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