DHS Report Confirms CBP Blocking People Seeking Refugee Protection at Southern Border

New York City—Following the release of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report on the Trump Administration’s family separation policy, Human Rights First today called on the administration to end its calculated policy of turning away refugees at official border points.

“Today’s report confirms that government officials launched an orchestrated policy of blocking asylum seekers at official border points, despite the fact that U.S. laws allow them to seek protection,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “By turning asylum seekers away, either by telling them to come back another time or that processing facilities were full, the administration, ironically, encouraged some to instead cross between border points—these vulnerable people were then subjected to the administration’s cruel zero-tolerance criminal prosecution and family separation policies. The dangerous and illegal practice of blocking refugees from official border points violates both U.S. law and treaty commitments. It also leaves refugees in danger of exploitation by smugglers and traffickers.”

Human Rights First notes that while Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were publicly telling asylum seekers to request asylum at official entry points rather than crossing the border between them, U.S. officers were, in fact, blocking or delaying access to those ports of entry.

The government investigators who authored today’s report saw “evidence that limiting the volume of asylum seekers entering at ports of entry leads some aliens who would otherwise seek legal entry into the United States to cross the border illegally.” This evidence included statements from individuals who reported that they were turned away from ports of entry as well as a border patrol supervisor who confirmed that the agency “sees an increase in illegal entries when aliens are metered at ports of entry.”

Human Rights First reported on border agents illegally turning back asylum seekers in 2017 and in 2018.

“Instead of discouraging asylum seekers from requesting protection at ports of entry, officials should uphold the rule of law and set a better example for the rest of the world—including for the many countries that face much larger numbers of refugees seeking protection,” added Acer.

For more information or to speak with Acer, contact Corinne Duffy at [email protected] or 202-370-3319.


Published on October 2, 2018


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