Media Contact

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

August 8, 2019

EL PASO, Texas – The ACLU Border Rights Center today filed a complaint with U.S Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The complaint states that CBP agents violated the Fifth Amendment rights of three U.S. citizens – academic researchers from the University of Texas at Austin – while attempting to re-enter the United States from Mexico. CBP agents denied the group entry into the United States after they advocated for an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum at a port of entry in Eagle Pass, Texas.

According to the individuals involved, CBP agents blocked their entry into the United States as Mexican authorities threatened them with arrest for simply accompanying the child to the port of entry to seek asylum. The group reached out to the ACLU Border Rights Center, who then contacted CBP leadership and local Congresspeople to inquire about the situation. After two and a half hours the group was allowed to re-enter the United States. The unaccompanied minor’s asylum claim was also ultimately processed by CBP.

“We are seeing a dangerous escalation of retaliation against individuals who work to ensure that asylum seekers are treated lawfully by U.S. officials,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the ACLU Border Rights Center. “The agency’s latest action is a direct violation of U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights, boldly disregarding their right to enter their own country. We’re calling for an investigation and real changes that will put an end to CBP’s actions as an unsupervised power with no accountability to the public.”

The complaint demands an immediate investigation into the illegal steps taken by CBP officers to deny U.S. citizens re-entry into their country. In addition, it argues that the agency acted outside of their legal authority in antagonizing the group for their lawful actions.

“This incident left us reeling and feeling disoriented and shocked,” said Stephanie Leutert, a lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and one of the persons denied entry. “We never expected to be barred from our own country just for accompanying a child asylum seeker. We were extremely fortunate to have quickly received support from outside groups, but it is frightening to know that others might find themselves in similar situations with no one to call.”

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