For years, the U.S.-Mexico border has been a testing ground for practices that violate people's rights. Under the Trump administration these policies have become more extreme.
Even as over 200,000 people have died of COVID-19, this administration remains focused on expanding its racist anti-immigrant agenda, cruel border policies and building the wall. It has shut down the asylum process, further militarized border communities, and separated migrant families or forced them to return to dangerous conditions.
The ACLU of Texas has not let up in our efforts to end the administration’s cruel and devastating actions. Here’s how we’ve been fighting and why it’s important that we all remain vigilant – no matter what happens on Nov. 3.
Fighting the border wall
- Through legal action, we’ve pushed to stop the construction of 700 miles of border wall along the southern Texas border with Mexico. The district and appeals courts ruled in favor of our clients, holding that the Trump administration violated the Constitution by diverting billions of dollars from the military to build border walls that Congress refused to fund. The government has petitioned the Supreme Court to review, and we are prepared to take our fight to the highest level.
- The Trump administration is also using eminent domain to take property from landowners. We and the Texas Civil Rights Project are representing landowners facing loss of their land for border wall construction. Our client Nayda Alvarez, whose family has lived on property near the border for five generations, is the target of one of those land grabs.
- Senior Trump officials endorsed the work of anti-immigrant stalwarts, including Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach, whose collaboration with groups building privately funded border walls resulted in their indictments on federal criminal charges. We still are demanding answers about the administration's relationship with the group and its dubious dealings with the related contractor.
- For decades, the ACLU has fought the militarization of law enforcement agencies and the use of the military in our communities, even more so at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump administration has created a fake emergency to deploy the National Guard and has used a rogue agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to carry out its illegal and cruel policies.
- CBP, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, has long history of abuse and violent impunity, which has no place in our communities. CBP agents have been deployed across the country, where they have suppressed protests and abducted people off city streets.
- Documents uncovered through our work revealed that Border Patrol deployed sniper units, swat teams and surveillance technology to George Floyd’s burial service – an offensive and disturbing example of the extent to which the agency is willing to go to militarize U.S. communities.
Defending asylum at the border
- We’ve challenged every effort by the Trump administration to separate families and end asylum at our border. At the same time that Border Patrol agents ripped children from the arms of their parents, CBP unlawfully blocked access to asylum at ports of entry, forcing more to cross where they could be separated from their children.
- CBP and the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy have returned over 60,000 vulnerable asylum seekers to Mexico to await hearings in the United States. There have been 1,114 publicly reported cases of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping and other violent assaults resulting from the policy. Every court to review the policy has found it unlawful.
- The administration also decided to fast track asylum seekers through legal proceedings while holding them in the black hole of CBP custody without access to an attorney. We sued.
- Now, the administration has co-opted the COVID-19 pandemic to ban asylum at the border completely. We’ve taken them to court and reporting recently revealed that the administration demanded the border closed despite experts’ refusal, undercutting supposed public health justifications for the policy.
Demanding humane conditions in CBP detention
- Conditions in CBP border detention facilities have always been atrocious, with families and children stuffed into ice-cold cells for days without access to medical care. Under the Trump administration, children began dying in custody for the first time in over 10 years. We uncovered dangerous and abusive conditions at Border Patrol detention facilities, including mistreatment of pregnant persons and the agency’s practice of holding children outside in the dirt, and documented the horrors in these border jails. Litigation led by the ACLU of Arizona resulted in a federal court finding conditions in CBP facilities in Arizona were unconstitutional.
Our work is far from over. No matter the election outcome, plenty still needs to be done to reverse the damage done. Please join us in this fight by signing our petition and pledging to keep protecting our border communities in 2021.