The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, ACLU National, and the ACLU of the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit challenging a federal policy which rushes asylum seekers through their initial asylum screening without access to an attorney while holding them in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention centers — known colloquially as hieleras, or ice boxes. As a result, asylum seekers are swiftly and wrongly sent back to the same danger they fled in their native countries. 

The lawsuit seeks to block the policy, which the government calls PACR (Prompt Asylum Claim Review) and HARP (Humanitarian Asylum Review Process).

The plaintiffs in the case include three asylum-seeking families forced through their asylum screenings in CBP jails and sent back to danger, as well as Las Americas, an organization that provides legal services to asylum seekers. The lawsuit states that keeping asylum seekers in CBP jails violates their rights under U.S. law to access attorneys, to seek protection in the U.S., and to due process.

Update 2/18/20: The legal team has asked the federal district court to declare the new policy of holding asylum seekers in CBP jails unlawful and to block it from continuing. 

Update 12/28/20: The ACLU of Texas and partners have asked the court to reconsider its decision favoring the government. The court's decision is at odds with another federal court's unanimous agreement that asylum seekers in immigration detention must have meaningful opportunities to speak with attorneys and a meaningful chance to seek asylum.

Date filed

December 5, 2019


U.S. District Court, District of Columbia



Case number