Sec. Kelly Urged to Uphold U.S. Legal Commitments to Asylum Seekers After Court Ruling
Washington, D.C.—In the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that will lift a stay on some aspects of President Trump’s revised executive order on resettlement and visas, Human Rights First urged Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to take steps to ensure that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials, including at airports and ports of entry, comply with U.S. law and treaty obligations to process requests for asylum, including from the six countries targeted by the executive order.
“U.S. border agents at airports, ports of entry and elsewhere must properly process requests for asylum, including for asylum seekers from the six countries targeted by the president’s executive order,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Neither the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday, nor the March executive order, curtails that legal obligation which is enshrined in U.S. law and central to our nation’s treaty commitments.”
In the Trump Administration’s March 6 executive order, the president clarified that the travel ban does not impact asylum seekers, stating, “Nothing in this order shall be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture, consistent with the laws of the United States.”
Last month Human Rights First released a major report documenting dozens of instances in which U.S. border agents illegally turned away asylum seekers from the U.S. southern border. The report, “Crossing the Line,” was based on 125 cases of asylum seekers turned away at ports of entry by CBP agents in violation of U.S. law and treaty obligations. CBP spokespersons’ statements following the report’s release further confirmed CBP’s responsibility to uphold U.S. legal obligations to receive and process asylum seekers.
In the wake the Trump Administration’s original travel ban, some CBP officers illegally turned away asylum seekers at ports of entry across the U.S.-Mexico border. Shortly following the orders attorneys in Texas reported CBP agents at the Hidalgo port of entry told asylum seekers, “Trump says we don’t have to let you in.” In February 2017 CBP agents at the Ped-West entry point told an asylum seeker that “the United States is not giving asylum anymore.” Another CBP officer told one asylum seeker, “they are killing people who are Christians. Those are the people we are giving asylum to, not people like you. You don’t qualify.” Some media reports also indicated CBP agents turned away asylum seekers at major U.S. airports, including a Syrian woman who sought asylum after her visa was unexpectedly revoked.
Human Rights First urges Secretary Kelly to ensure his officers do not repeat these transgressions. In accordance with U.S. law, CBP agents must allow access to U.S. asylum procedures.