For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, jnessel@ccrjustice.org

Marion Steinfels, SPLC, (202) 557-0430, marionsteinfels@gmail.com

Human Rights Attorneys in Court to Defend Lawsuit Challenging Unlawful Trump Administration Turnback Policy

WASHINGTON - The Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, and American Immigration Council argued in federal district court today against the government’s effort to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's unlawful turnbacks of asylum seekers who present themselves at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The Trump administration is doing everything it can to sidestep its legal obligations to asylum seekers,” said Baher Azmy, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Instead, their focus has been on stripping these incredibly vulnerable populations of their rights while working to convince the American public via a campaign of misinformation that they lack capacity to process asylum seekers at the southern border.” 

Last November, the organizations filed an amended complaint, which directly links high-level members of the Trump administration to an official "Turnback Policy," directing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to restrict the number of asylum seekers who can access the asylum process at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. This policy and related practices deny many asylum seekers access to the asylum process, in violation of U.S. and international law.

“The ratcheting up of this policy was one of the Trump administration’s earliest efforts to target asylum seekers and manufacture the current crisis at the border,” said Melissa Crow, Senior Supervising Attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “Since taking office, this administration has implemented policy after policy aimed at undermining and evading our country’s legal obligations to asylum seekers, all while demonizing them in the public’s eye.”

Since the implementation of the “Turnback Policy,” the administration has also attempted to ban asylum seekers entering between ports of entry from eligibility for asylum and put in place the “Remain in Mexico” policy that strands vulnerable individuals in dire circumstances in Mexico to await their immigration court hearings. More recently, Attorney General Barr announced a new policy that would indefinitely detain certain asylum seekers who have passed an initial “credible fear” screening interview. 

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“Nearly every day it seems there is a new policy announced or effort uncovered aimed solely at making life for asylum seekers and immigrants in general unbearable,” said Erika Pinheiro, Al Otro Lado Director of Litigation and Policy. “The administration’s rhetoric leaves no doubt that its main goals are to make life as difficult as possible for asylum seekers and to bolster its anti-immigrant narrative.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Constitutional Rights and American Immigration Council filed the lawsuit, Al Otro Lado v. McAleenan, No. 3:17-cv-02366 (S.D. Cal.), in July 2017 on behalf of 13 individual asylum seekers and Al Otro Lado, an immigration legal services provider with offices in Mexico and California.

Al Otro Lado is also a plaintiff in another case challenging the administration’s asylum ban, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Trump, which had briefs due this week.

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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