The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) joined the American Immigration Council (AIC), American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA), Kino Border Initiative (Kino), and American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project (ACLU IRP) in submitting a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) on behalf of numerous adult men and women, families, and unaccompanied children who, over the past several months, were denied entry to the United States at various ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border despite having claimed a fear of returning to their home countries or an intention to seek asylum under U.S. law. Additionally, LAWG and thirteen partner organizations requested a thematic hearing from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on measures taken by or at the request of the United States that impede access to asylum and core human rights protections in the United States.
“It is illegal for U.S. CBP officials to be turning away asylum-seeking families and children along the U.S.-Mexico border and for Mexican migration authorities to be helping the United States in preventing these individuals from accessing protection. Families and children should not have to wait in dangerous situations to seek protection or try numerous times to be accepted. We urge DHS to stop this practice immediately and to take action to hold the CBP agents accountable for their violation of U.S. and international law,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG’s Senior Associate on Mexico, Migrant Rights, and Border Issues.
Throughout 2016, LAWG has documented the violence, corruption, and impunity driving internal displacement and migration from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador). We continue to call on the United States and Mexico to provide families and children with a fair chance to access asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, in Mexico, and throughout the region. Under U.S. and international law, our government is required to allow noncitizens who present themselves at U.S. borders and ports of entry to apply for asylum or other forms of humanitarian protection. Mexico also has the obligation to ensure that those seeking protection in its territory receive it. Unfortunately, Mexico’s asylum system remains not only weak, but structured to discourage children, individuals, and families from seeking protection in the first place.
Any cooperation between Mexican and United States migration officials at the U.S.-Mexico border to dissuade or prevent asylum seeking families and children from accessing protection is illegal. In December 2016, Mexican and U.S. organizations submitted complaints to Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) regarding the participation of Mexican migration authorities in controlling the access that asylum seekers have to seek protection at U.S. ports of entry.
LAWG urges the U.S. government to immediately stop this practice of turning away asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border and instead, implement mechanisms to process families and children humanely at our border—including ensuring access to legal counsel and due process so that they have a fair chance at making their cases.