Attorney General Becerra Leads Multistate Amicus Brief Challenging Trump Administration “Turnback Policy”

Friday, February 22, 2019
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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced leading a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by nonprofit legal services provider Al Otro Lado, challenging the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) practice of unlawfully denying individuals access to the asylum process at ports of entry on the southern border. In the brief, the Attorneys General urge the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to deny the Trump Administration’s motion to partially dismiss the lawsuit. The brief discusses how the Trump Administration’s “Turnback Policy” exacerbates inhumane conditions at the border and causes severe harm to asylum-seekers who, through misrepresentations and intimidation by CBP, are turned away from the border. The “Turnback Policy” is contrary to both the United States’ treaty obligations and federal law, which require immigration officials to promptly give asylum-seekers a fair chance to present their claims.

“Families fleeing violence and persecution deserve to be treated fairly—not lied to and pushed back into danger,” said Attorney General Becerra. “California will not stand by while the Trump Administration carries out its illegal and inhumane practices along the border that harm people who have already experienced so much trauma. We are committed to defending the rights of asylum-seekers and fighting to preserve the rule of law.”

Al Otro Lado v. Nielsen challenges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Turnback Policy,” mandating lower-level officials turn back asylum-seekers at the border. Under this policy, CBP has used various methods to deny asylum-seekers access to the asylum process including misrepresentations, threats and intimidation, coercion, verbal and physical abuse, and “metering,” the practice of putting artificial, daily limits on the number of asylum-seekers allowed to cross the border. In the brief, the States maintain that such practices unlawfully deter and deny asylum-seekers access to the asylum process and create further harm by forcing them to languish at the border under inhumane conditions.

The coalition also argues that States will be harmed by the effects of this illegal policy. States invest their own resources to provide education, healthcare, and other services to immigrants residing within their borders, including asylum-seekers once they are in the country. State and local governments will incur the cost of providing services to asylum-seekers who suffer unnecessary trauma as a result of the “Turnback Policy.” The state signatories to the brief have welcomed over 70 percent of the national total of asylees and have a profound interest in ensuring that the rights and welfare of asylum-seekers are protected.

Joining Attorney General Becerra in filing the brief are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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