Media Contact

Imelda Mejia, ACLU of Texas, 346-299-6803, media@aclutx.org

March 27, 2019

EL PASO, Texas —The American Civil Liberties Union Border Rights Center rejects today’s call by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to increase funding for border enforcement. Newly released findings and a formal complaint filed today with federal agencies by the Center, demands the immediate investigation into the unlawful rejection of a Salvadoran family by Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry in Eagle Pass and El Paso, TX.

“For years, we’ve implored CBP to reallocate resources and make fundamental changes based on the new population of families and children who migrate to seek protection and turn themselves in,” said Astrid Dominguez, director for the ACLU Border Rights Center. “The reality is that the federal government’s focus on deterrence and harsh immigration enforcement dangerously neglects humanitarian needs. Congress and this Administration should shift the $16 billion budget to prioritize human rights, due process, and the right to seek asylum and dismiss McAleenan's request for increased militarization at the border.”

The complaint, filed with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Inspector General, the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility, details a series of unlawful actions by officers at both ports of entry resulting in the family’s kidnapping and ongoing persecution in Mexico for six months. These incidents occurred because the federal government has denied access to the U.S. asylum system by adopting a practice of turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry, the complaint alleges.

“While CBP’s actions outlined in the complaint are chilling, this is not an isolated case,” said Dominguez. “CBP is obligated to follow the law and process asylum seekers presenting at ports of entry. Instead, CBP has doubled down on its systemic attacks on asylum seekers at the border, abusing the rights of those seeking protection. What’s more, this unequivocally shows that the Trump administration continues its assault on the legal right to seek asylum and place migrants, including children, in ongoing serious danger.”

The ACLU Border Rights Center, with local partners and volunteers, conducted more than 200 interviews of asylum seekers denied their right to seek asylum at ports of entry in Texas. Migrants from Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, and Brazil who were fleeing extreme violence and political persecution were among those interviewed. When they reached the U.S.-Mexico border, they faced unlawful turnbacks by CBP agents.

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