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Access Denied: CBP Deterrence of Asylum Seekers at U.S. Ports of Entry

  • 2237 Rayburn House Office Building (map)

Dear Colleagues:

Earlier this month, SPLC and its partners, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Immigration Council, filed an Amended Complaint in the pending lawsuit, Al Otro Lado v. Nielsen, which challenges the Trump Administration’s unlawful policy and practice of turning back asylum seekers at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.  The filing directly links high-level Trump administration officials to an official “Turnback Policy,” ordering U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to restrict the number of asylum seekers who can access the asylum process. The Turnback Policy compounds other longstanding border-wide tactics CBP has implemented to prevent migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S., such as lies, intimidation, coercion, verbal abuse, physical force, outright denials of access, unreasonable delay, and threats—including family separation.

The ACLU's southwest border affiliates have been active in documenting asylum access problems at ports of entry.  While DHS instructs migrants to present themselves for asylum at ports—promising they will not be prosecuted or have parents separated from children—this pathway has instead become another deterrence trap despite manifest violations of domestic and international law.  The administration's current attempt to inflame and mislead about the migrant caravan makes discussion of this topic all the more urgent. 

I cordially invite you to a briefing about this important topic. The panel will give staff background on the current status of the litigation, the administration’s policy and what offices can do to hold DHS accountable.



Melissa Crow, Southern Poverty Law Center, Washington, DC
Erika Pinheiro, Al Otro Lado, Los Angeles, CA and Tijuana, Mexico
Shaw Drake, ACLU Border Rights Center, El Paso, TX
Leah Chavla, Women’s Refugee Commission, Washington, DC
Frank Sharry, America’s Voice, Washington DC



 Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary 

Rep. Zoe Lofgren
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security