A New Lawsuit Alleges Asylum Seekers Are Being Illegally Turned Away at the Border – Noah Lanard Jul. 13, 2017 3:08 PM

“This country must hear their stories and offer them the protection of the law.”

Traffic at the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego.Josh Denmark/US Customs and Border Protection

In August 2016, Dinora Doe and her now-18-year old daughter arrived at the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego fleeing death threats, kidnapping, and rape committed by MS-13, a gang that has terrorized citizens in Doe’s native Honduras.

On their first two attempts to enter the United States, both women were told (incorrectly) that Central Americans were not eligible for asylum, according to a court document. On their third attempt, a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official told Dinora she could cross, but only if she left her daughter behind. They chose to stay in Tijuana instead, where they remain today. 

Yesterday, Doe became one of six individual plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed by immigration lawyers and advocates alleging that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) illegally turned them away after claiming that there was no asylum in the United States.

The lawsuit, which is being argued by the American Immigration Council, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the law firm of Latham & Watkins, claims that Doe’s case is part of a systematic effort by CBP to prevent people from making asylum claims. In a call with reporters, the lawyers argued that border officials have misled, threatened, and physically abused asylum seekers in hundreds of cases to prevent them from entering the country. These families see the United States as their only refuge, said Baher Azmy, the Center for Constitutional Rights’ legal director.

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