CBP pilot program places lives of asylum seekers in danger, lawsuit alleges

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Advocacy group asking for injunction against HARP and PACR fast-track initiatives in El Paso Sector

A pair of recent CBP programs to expedite asylum claims deprive asylum seekers of due process, a lawsuit filed by an El Paso group alleges. (AP Photo)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — An El Paso advocacy group has filed for an injunction against recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies they say are sending asylum seekers back to places where their lives are in danger.

The legal brief by Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center against the HARP and PACR programs comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center against federal policies they say have turned the American asylum process into a “deportation machine.”

HARP stands for Humanitarian Asylum Review Process. PACR is the so-called Prompt Asylum Claim Review program. Both are being implemented as a pilot program in CBP’s El Paso Sector. Both have resulted in asylum seekers being held in Border Patrol stations without access to lawyers or advocates for the duration of their process and to the expedited removal of others, the brief alleges.

“The new policy eviscerates any meaningful opportunity for asylum seekers to consult with counsel during the credible fear process. […] The new policy all but guarantees that many asylum seekers will be erroneously sent back to countries where they face danger and that, as a result, some of them will be killed or endure horrific violence,” the brief states.

According to the plaintiffs, PACR and HARP:

  • Violate federal statutes that guarantee asyum seekers’ right to counsel during the initial credible-fear process.
  • Keeping asylum seekers in CBP custody for the duration of that process is “arbitrary and capricious.”
  • Effectively deprives migrants of a meaningful opportunity to apply for asylum or relief pursuant to international treaties, and is thus illegal.

Las Americas is asking a federal judge to make the Department of Homeland Security, CBP’s parent agency, stop the PACR and HAPR programs; vacate any pending orders of expedited removal against asylum seekers; return those whose removal was expedited; and parole both groups of people into the United States until they undergo a credible-fear process fully compliant with U.S. law.

CBP said it has a long-standing policy of not commenting on pending litigation and referred further questions to Homeland Security. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The brief states that asylum seekers “will continue to suffer irreparable harm” without an injunction and advocacy agencies will have to divert resources to comply with the new rules while being able to help fewer clients.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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