Human Rights First Witnesses Administration’s Attempts to Stall Refugee Caravan
San Ysidro, California—Human Rights First today called on the Trump Administration to end its attempts to hinder members of the refugee caravan from seeking protection in the United States, and begin immediately processing individuals who are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. As of this morning, none of the 50 migrants who walked to the San Ysidro port of entry have been allowed to ask for protection. Human Rights First notes that it is a violation of U.S. law for Customs and Border Patrol to refuse to process an asylum seeker at a port of entry.
Two Human Rights First researchers are in Tijuana to monitor compliance with U.S. law and treaty obligations.
“The administration’s response to the refugee caravan is simply a manufactured PR crisis designed to mislead the American public into closing the door on those seeking protection,” said Human Rights First’s Laura Gault, a lawyer currently observing the administration’s response in Tijuana. “While border patrol claims that it does not have the capacity to admit members of the caravan, there are women and children sleeping on the ground outside the port of entry, with no bathrooms, waiting to lawfully seek refuge in the United States. As Americans, we must do better than this.”
Yesterday CBP refused to process asylum requests of families seeking refugee protection in the United States, claiming it didn’t have the capacity and that facilities were full. The claim is hard to fathom, considering that there are only about 150 individuals—nearly half of whom are children—asking to be processed for asylum. Human Rights First will continue monitoring the situation and provide updates as the refugees attempt to be processed for protection.
Since news of the caravan was first reported, the Trump Administration has attempted to falsely portray those seeking protection, including those associated with the caravan, as threats and dangers in an attempt to push forward policies that will limit access to protection. The administration has threatened these individuals with criminal prosecutions, detention, and rushed proceedings.
These threats are in line with the Trump Administration’s year-long attacks to undermine the U.S. asylum system. Last year Human Rights First issued a report that documented the U.S. government illegally turning away asylum seekers at official land crossings all along the southern border.
Once the refugees are processed in the United States, Human Rights First, along with pro bono partners, will assist the newly-arriving Central American families in lawfully seeking refuge in the United States. To ensure that those who seek asylum in the United States are aware of their rights while in ICE detention, Human Rights First will provide guidance on the asylum process, including the credible fear interview, and provide “know your rights” information to caravan affiliated asylum seekers in ICE custody. Individuals who wish to receive legal assistance once in U.S. immigration detention will be instructed to call the organization’s hotline by human rights groups in Mexico.
Human Rights First notes that a major reason for the increase in protection requests are the refugee and displacement crises originating in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and, more recently, Venezuela. Deadly dangers are forcing people to flee in search of protection, as the U.N. Refugee Agency and human rights organizations have detailed. Asylum claims have risen sharply in other countries in the region, including in Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. The number of asylum applications in Mexico rose by 678 percent from 2013 to 2016, as Human Rights First documented in a July 2017 report. Human Rights First has urged the administration to uphold, rather than subvert, international law and international cooperation as they process protection requests at the border.
“It is particularly alarming that the government has not yet processed a single person for protection, even though the caravan has complied with requests to break into smaller groups,” added Gault. “The Trump Administration must stop trying to do an end-run around the law.”