The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed new information this week about two asylum programs at the U.S.-Mexico border. These programs are under scrutiny because they make it almost impossible for attorneys to speak with or meet their clients in border holding facilities. This leads to rushed life-or-death legal screenings behind closed doors.
DHS began to test the programs in El Paso, Texas in December 2019. The programs subject vulnerable individuals—including families with young children—to the fast-track asylum review processes “Prompt Asylum Claim Review”(PACR) and “Humanitarian Asylum Review Process” (HARP).
The programs, which have been challenged in federal court by the ACLU and others, have been expanded to various parts of the border as of early February 2020.
The new information came in response to a letter from U.S. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX) that demanded information about these programs. Multiple members of Congress joined Rep. Escobar in her letter, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA) and 27 others.
*DHS refused to answer Rep. Escobar’s detailed questions, citing pending litigation. But the agency did provide general information about the operation of both programs. DHS has not previously revealed this information:
*PACR applies to single adults and families from the Northern Triangle of Central America—and anywhere else—who are subject to the asylum transit ban.
DHS reports that HARP applies only to Mexican families (not single adults).
These single adults and families are held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in holding facilities at the border. Attorneys are categorically barred from entering CBP facilities to meet with their clients in person and are unable to use other methods like phones or video teleconferencing. This means that attorneys are unable to meet with their clients or review physical evidence.
CBP facilities are not designed to hold individuals for long periods of time or sensitive populations including pregnant women, the sick and elderly, and young children. Volumes of evidence demonstrate substandard conditions in CBP facilities. Last year, multiple children died in CBP holding cells.
By Katie Shepherd for immigrationimpact.com
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