Monday, November 9, 2020

Turn Back Policy


Challenging Customs and Border Protection's Unlawful Practice of Turning Away Asylum Seekers

This case challenges the government’s policy – the Turnback Policy – of turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry (POEs) across the U.S.-Mexico border since 2016.

The plaintiffs in the case are Al Otro Lado, a non-profit legal services organization that serves indigent deportees, migrants and refugees in Los Angeles and Tijuana, along with individual, courageous asylum seekers who experienced CBP’s unlawful conduct firsthand. Their experiences demonstrate that CBP has used a variety of tactics – including misrepresentation, threats and intimidation, verbal abuse and physical force, metering, and coercion–to deny bona fide asylum seekers the opportunity to pursue their claims.

In April 2018, the government issued guidance formalizing and focusing the Turnback Policy through a policy of metering. Under the metering policy, CBP officials assert a lack of capacity and refuse to inspect and process asylum seekers, forcing them to wait in Mexico.

The complaint alleges that CBP’s refusal to allow asylum seekers access to the asylum process violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and the doctrine of non-refoulement under international law.

Plaintiffs are represented by the American Immigration Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Mayer Brown LLP.

On August 6, 2020, the district court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, allowing the case to proceed on behalf of all asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border who were or will be prevented from accessing the asylum process at ports of entry as a result of the government’s Turnback Policy. Specifically, the court certified a class consisting of “all noncitizens who seek or will seek to access the U.S. asylum process by presenting themselves at a Class A [POE] on the U.S.-Mexico border, and were or will be denied access to the U.S. asylum process by or at the instruction of [CBP] officials on or after January 1, 2016.” The court also certified a subclass consisting of “all noncitizens who were or will be denied access to the U.S. asylum process at a Class A POE on the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of Defendants’ metering policy on or after January 1, 2016.”

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