A judge has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the United States to deny migrants access to its asylum process at ports of entry. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 3 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ruled the United States' practice of systematically denying migrants access to the asylum process at ports of entry under the pretext that they were act capacity was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant of the Southern District of California ruled Thursday in favor of a lawsuit filed four years ago by advocacy group Al Otro Lado and 13 people who sought asylum in the United States.
"After over four years, a U.S. federal court concluded what our team at Al Otro Lado has known all along, that the [Customs and Border Protection's] turning away of asylum seekers from ports of entry and metering are illegal and violate the rights of the individuals and families most in need of our protection," Nicole Ramos, border rights project director at Al Otro Lado, said Thursday in a statement.
In her 45-page ruling, Bashant said that under U.S. law, the government must inspect and process all asylum seekers when they present themselves at ports of entry.
According to the court document, this act known as metering began under the Obama administration in 2016 in response to a surge in Haitian immigrants arriving at the San Ysidro port of of entry in San Diego, Calif.
As the high volume in asylum seekers continued, the act of metering was adopted by other ports of entry though its implementation varied. Under the Trump administration, the policy was officially adopted and expanded in 2018.
In March 2020, the United States implemented COVID-19 preventative measures that allow border officials to deny entry to asylum seeks. Early last month, the Biden administration extended the measure known as Title 42.
In her ruling, Bashant gave the U.S. government and Al Otro Lado until Oct. 1 to submit supplemental briefs on the appropriate remedy in the case and to explain how it may be impacted by Title 42.
Al Otro Lado had argued the CPB used lies, threats and coercion to deny migrants access to the asylum process.
"This decision affirms what people fleeing persecution and immigrant rights advocates have argued for years: the U.S. government's denial of access to the asylum process at ports of entry is blatantly illegal," Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which joined the class action lawsuit in 2018, said in a statement. "The court properly recognized the extensive human costs of metering, including the high risk of assault, disappearance and death when CBP officers flout their duty to inspect and process asylum seekers and instead force them to wait in Mexico."