U.S. CUSTOMS AND Border Protection agents are systematically violating U.S. and international law by blocking immigrants at international ports of entry on the southern border from entering the country so they can claim asylum. Immigration civil rights advocates have been documenting this illegal behavior since late 2016, from Texas to California. It was sporadic then, and appears to have been based at least in part on CBP’s difficulties with handling large numbers of people.
Even so, the practice of turning immigrants away has suddenly become routine, creating chilling scenes of immigrants and children camped out near the bridges, exposed to sun, wind, and rain, amid make-do bedding, scattered clothing, and trash. A few times a day, the immigrants walk to the middle of the bridges and ask to be admitted to the port of entry building on the U.S. side so that they can request asylum. They are almost always turned back.
The Intercept witnessed such a scene on June 4 in El Paso, Texas. At 6 a.m., the sun rose on a 15-year-old Guatemalan boy and his father who were trying to walk across the border to apply for asylum. They did not swim the Rio Grande or otherwise attempt to enter the country illegally — they’d made their attempt on an arcing, international bridge that joins El Paso with its Mexican sister city, Ciudad Juárez.
They were stopped at the top of the bridge by two CBP agents who refused to let them cross, pointed them back to Mexico, and said to try crossing later. This was the sixth time in three days that the man, his son, and about a dozen other Guatemalans had been thus rejected.
I knew they were Guatemalans because I’d spoken with the man two days earlier. I spotted him and the group squatting disconsolately on the Mexican side of the bridge by the public bathrooms. This man and others in the group told me then that they were asylum-seekers afraid to go back to their home country because of violence there.
By Debbie Nathan for THE INTERCEPT
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