BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today joined 19 attorneys general in filing a brief challenging the Trump Administration’s “turnback policy,” which has effectively halted the asylum process at the southern border for thousands of people waiting to present their claims.
In the amicus brief, filed in Al Otro Lado v. Nielsen, the attorneys general argue to the federal court in Southern California that the Administration’s turnback policy exacerbates inhumane conditions at the border and causes severe harm to asylum-seekers who are turned away at ports of entry. The attorneys general also argue that turning away asylum-seekers contradicts the United States’ treaty obligations and federal law, which require immigration officials to promptly give asylum-seekers a fair chance to present their claims.
“The Trump Administration has done everything possible to deny access to asylum and make life miserable for people seeking refuge in the United States,” said AG Healey. “This unlawful policy inflicts unnecessary, inhumane trauma on children and families who have escaped unspeakable violence and are seeking a better life in America.”
Al Otro Lado v. Nielsen challenges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s turnback policy mandating that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials turn away asylum-seekers at the border. Under this policy, the CBP illegally interferes with the asylum process through misrepresentations, threats, intimidation, coercion, verbal and physical abuse, and imposing artificial, daily limits on the number of asylum-seekers allowed to cross the border, a practice called “metering.”
In the brief, the attorneys general maintain that these practices are designed to create further harm by forcing asylum-seekers to languish at the border under inhumane conditions. The brief states that “thousands of immigrants, many with young children, have been forced to stay in a makeshift camp at a sports complex, a shelter at an abandoned concert venue in one of the most dangerous parts of Tijuana, and on plastic tarps in the streets waiting to be processed by CBP.” It continues, “the unsanitary conditions ‘have raised concerns among aid workers and humanitarian organizations that the migrants, packed into a space intended for half their number, are susceptible to outbreaks of disease.’”
The brief also argues that states will be harmed by the effects of this illegal policy on asylum-seekers who ultimately are able to present valid claims and come to reside within our borders. The turnback policy forces these potential asylees to wait at the border, without access to basic health care, education, and other services. Massachusetts and the other states signed on to today’s brief provide these services to their residents, which will be made more expensive and harder to deliver due to the unnecessary trauma and denial of basic services when asylum-seekers are unduly prevented from presenting their claims for weeks or even months.
AG Healey has been actively fighting the Trump Administration’s many cruel, unlawful attempts to deny access to asylum and punish asylum-seekers for trying to present their claims.
In June 2018, AG Healey co-led a coalition of 18 states in suing the Trump Administration over its illegal policy of forcibly separating families at the southern border. AG Healey has also joined amicus briefs in opposition to Administration policies that required asylum-seekers to present their claims at a port of entry and blocked asylum claims based on gang and domestic violence. AG Healey has also led a coalition of 17 states to urge the Administration to halt its discriminatory termination of Temporary Protected Status for foreign nationals whose countries of origin remain unsafe.
Today’s brief was led by California and joined by state attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.