Victims of Trump’s “Turnback Policy,” represented by several organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Immigration Council, and others, have asked a federal court to end the illegal policy. The policy gives immigration officials at ports of entry to turn back asylum seekers and force them to wait in Mexico, endangering their health and safety.
The policy is illegal at several different levels. According to the plaintiffs and their lawyers, the policy violates U.S. laws, the Constitution, and international legal principles that “require that asylum seekers be given access to the U.S. asylum process and prohibit them from being turned back at the border.” It’s alleged that asylum seekers who have been turned back “are in serious danger of disappearing, kidnappings, rape, and sexual and labor exploitation.”
According to a whistleblower, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents routinely lie to asylum seekers, saying the ports of entry are over capacity when they are not, coerce them to withdraw their applications, or physically force to turn them back. The agents know the policy is illegal, but enforce it anyway. Some asylum seekers have been turned back while standing on U.S. soil.
Such was the case of Oscar Martinez, his wife Tania, and their 23-month old daughter, Valeria, in 2019. They were turned back when the CBP told them that the Brownsville port was full, though it was only at 33% of capacity. They tried to swim across the river and drowned. They were found at the river’s edge with Valeria clinging to her father’s neck.
Unfortunately, the motion before the Court only asks that the practices by CBP be stopped and the “Turnback Policy” be declared unlawful. It’s un-American and hypocritical for us, a nation that used to take action against countries who routinely violated basic human rights, not to seek punishment against CBP agents who knew the policy was illegal yet enforced it anyway. The architect of the inhumane policy and whoever ordered its enforcement at the White House, in violation of the US Constitution, and national and international laws, should also be charged. Maybe later, hopefully.
Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr.
United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Inc