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SPLC Pushes Back Against Trump Administration’s ‘Turnback Policy’ for Asylum-Seekers

— May 10, 2019

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the White House isn’t just manufacturing a border crisis but misinforming the public, too.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is arguing against the Trump administration’s “Turnback Policy,” which the group claims puts asylum-seekers lives in danger.

The policy, noted Arizona Central late last year, makes use of various tactics to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In some cases, border officials have intimidated or misrepresented information to dissuade immigrants from lodging petitions or crossing at authorized points of entry.

“These methods include […] a ‘metering’ or waitlist system that creates unreasonable and life-threatening delays in processing asylum seekers. Instructing asylum seekers to wait on the bridge, in the preinspection area, or at a shelter until there is adequate space at the POE; or simply asserting to asylum seekers that they cannot be processed because the POE is ‘full’ or ‘at capacity,’” claimed an amended 2017 class action, filed by the SPLC and several immigration advocacy groups.

While the practice began under the Obama administration, the Southern Poverty Law Center says it’s been intensified under Trump’s watch.

“The ratcheting up of this policy was one of the Trump administration’s earliest efforts to target asylum seekers and manufacture the current crisis at the border,” Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney for the ACLU, said in court Friday. “Since taking office, the administration has implemented policy after policy aimed at undermining and evading our country’s legal obligations to asylum seekers, all while demonizing them in the public eye.”

A 2014 image of Donald Trump. President Trump has continued to make immigration a central platform for his presidency. Image from Flickr via Wikimedia Commons/user:Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

One of President Trump’s first executive orders was meant to curb immigration and refugee flows from several Muslim-majority countries. As his term has worn on, the commander-in-chief has increasingly turned his ire to Mexico and Central America.

In April, the White House announced that it’d cut aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—three Central American nations which have been at the center of the contemporary immigration crisis.

Along with cutting aid, Trump has alternately threatened to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border and deployed military forces to assist immigration officials.

All the while, claims the SPLC, the administration has abdicated its legal duty to process asylum applications expediently and with integrity. Some migrants are forced to wait for months before receiving even initial decisions, oftentimes in violence-stricken towns on the Mexican side of the border.

Furthermore, Crow charges Customs and Border Protection officers with ‘forcing’ asylum-seekers to make false statements about their asylum claims, coercing them into signing documents they can’t understand.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the lawsuit along with the SPLC and American Immigration Council, suggests the administration is misleading the public.

“The Trump administration is doing everything it can to sidestep its legal obligations to asylum seekers,” CCR legal director Baher Azmy said, as quoted on the SPLC’s website. “Instead, their focus has been on stripping this population of their rights, while working to convince the American public via a campaign of misinformation that they lack the capacity to process asylum seekers at the southern border.”


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