SAN DIEGO – Today, the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC), Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS), Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef), Transgender Law Center (TLC) and Al Otro Lado (AOL) filed an administrative complaint asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate and recommend practices addressing U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) failure to adjudicate in a timely manner urgent applications for urgent humanitarian parole filed by people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In recent months, dozens of applications for urgent humanitarian parole filed by JFS, ImmDef, TLC and AOL have gone unanswered for weeks, if not months. Additionally, other applications, including one filed by ACLUF-SDIC, have been summarily denied without adequate explanation.
Some of the pending cases include:
- An application filed on behalf of a family of three, which includes a three-year-old child who has urgent medical needs due to suffering from epilepsy and the frequent seizures caused by the condition;
- An application filed on behalf of a family of five, including a baby in need of urgent medical care due to having macrocephaly, intracranial hypertension, epilepsy and fluid in the brain; and
- An application filed on behalf of a gay man living with HIV who is unable to access critical medications and treatments for this condition and other health concerns, including high blood pressure, anxiety and extreme depression. After fleeing persecution in his home country to seek asylum in the U.S., he has been forced to wait in Mexico where he continues to face threats to his safety and wellbeing.
People fleeing persecution and violence have the legal and human right to seek asylum in the United States. However, using policies such as Title 42 and the Remain in Mexico program, the federal government has effectively shut down the asylum process. Thus, at this moment, the CBP-operated humanitarian parole application process is the only path by which vulnerable individuals can access protection in the U.S. through the southern border. By failing to process or summarily denying humanitarian parole applications, CBP has practically closed even this narrow path to protection.
Monika Y. Langarica, immigrant rights’ staff attorney with the ACLUF-SDIC, said: “People with urgent humanitarian needs are entitled to seek relief provided by United States laws. These protections are especially important for people fleeing violence and persecution. At a minimum, CBP must give meaningful consideration to applications for humanitarian parole, which by definition are urgent, and are the only remaining path to safety in the United States through the southern border.”
Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services for JFS, explained: “Even the most experienced attorneys are unable to navigate the humanitarian parole request labyrinth due to yet another system designed to function as an additional wall foreclosing access to critical protection for asylum seekers. Unless and until these problems are ameliorated, we will continue to be faced with the humanitarian, legal, and moral consequences of a border that turns away the most vulnerable.”
Emem Maurus, managing attorney and legal coordinator for the TLC, said: “Today, hundreds of LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum wait indefinitely in Mexico due to policies, such as Title 42 and Remain in Mexico, that deny them access to our asylum system. These policies put LGBTQI+ people in danger. In Mexico, they suffer discrimination and violence because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. CBP’s refusal to answer humanitarian parole applications has practically closed our asylum system to vulnerable people fleeing danger and persecution. We urge the Office of Inspector General to investigate CBP’s actions and to recommend practices to quickly adjudicate these urgent applications. Turning people away at the border through these cruel practices and policies leaves LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum languishing in extremely unsafe circumstances resulting in physical attacks, kidnappings, untreated medical issues, and, in some cases, death.”
Margaret Cargioli, managing attorney for ImmDef, said: "It is vital for humanitarian parole applications to be processed fairly and without delay. Our government keeps enforcing questionable and unjust practices that not only keep vulnerable persons from accessing justice but also expose them to inhumane conditions that are often the difference between life and death."
Nicole Ramos, border rights project director at AOL said: “The Biden administration is no different than the Trump administration in that asylum seekers continue to die as a result of being denied access to the legal process that would have otherwise saved their lives. Like the Trump administration, the Biden administration forfeits the right to claim that the United States is a champion of human rights and the rule of law when it allows CBP to disregard federal law and leave human beings to be hunted and killed by cartels, human traffickers, and members of all levels of the Mexican military and law enforcement.”