June 29, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) led a letter of 51 Members calling for the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General to open an investigation regarding reports that asylum-seekers are being turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border before being referred to an asylum officer. They also expressed dismay at Trump Administration policies that could compel families to choose between pursuing legal asylum claims or being reunited and then deported.

In the letter, the Members write:

  • It has become increasingly evident that the Department of Homeland Security is turning away individuals seeking asylum at U.S. ports of entry. In May 2017, Human Rights First published a report that documented 125 cases of families and individuals who were denied an opportunity to pursue their asylum claims at a port of entry. This month, The Washington Post reported a story of a Guatemalan father and son who were blocked from the port of entry on the Paso del Norte Bridge at the Texas border. In some cases families are turned back because the agency purportedly lacks sufficient resources to process them. In other instances it appears that CBP officers are simply hostile to migrants, falsely telling them that the United States is not welcoming asylum seekers.

  • Further troubling are reports that CBP officers have improperly evaluated asylum claims or have forced asylum seekers to recant their fears. The aforementioned Human Rights First report alleges that CBP officers have falsely indicated on forms that certain individuals have not expressed a fear of return, writing instead that they have come to the United States for work. The organization also documented a case in which CBP officers repeatedly pressured a Mexican woman to recant her fear of return and indicated she would not be granted asylum. CBP officers are not trained in asylum law and should not be evaluating asylum claims. They should instead refer asylum seekers to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers; however, it appears that too often CBP agents fail to refer these cases.

  • Finally, we are worried by the recently-announced Department of Homeland Security fact sheet about zero-tolerance prosecution and family reunification. This document states that parents who are being deported may request to have their child accompany them. This policy will likely encourage detained parents to drop not only their own but also their children’s asylum claims in hope of being reunited. Families should never have to choose between reunification and their legal right to seek refuge in this country.

  • We urge you to immediately open an investigation into the Department of Homeland Security’s potentially illegal treatment of asylum seekers at the southwest border, including the denial of access to asylum procedures, the pressure to recant fears of return and the implementation of a policy that incentivizes asylum seekers to forfeit their claims in order to be reunited with their children.


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