Border agents are systematically intimidating and turning away asylum seekers at the US–Mexico border, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges.
The federal class-action lawsuit filed in US District Court in California by immigrant rights groups alleges that US Customs and Border Protection agents have told migrants that "Donald Trump just signed new laws saying there is no asylum for anyone." They have also allegedly coerced asylum seekers into signing forms abandoning their claims by threatening to take their children away.
"CBP’s illegal conduct is occurring as a humanitarian crisis drives vulnerable people experiencing persecution in their home countries to seek refugee protection in the United States," the complaint states.
CBP said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation.
One of the plaintiffs, identified as Abigail Doe in the complaint, is a Mexican native with two children under the age of 10. She attempted to flee Mexico after the cartels threatened to kill her family.
She arrived in Tijuana with her two kids and approached border agents at the San Ysidro point of entry. The lawsuit states CBP agents coerced her into recanting her fear of staying in Mexico and signing a form withdrawing her application for admission to the US.
Abigail Doe and other women in the lawsuit said they were told by agents that if they continued to pursue their asylum claims they would be separated from their children.
“As a result of this coercion, the form falsely states that [Abigail Doe] and her children were unable to access the asylum process and were forced to return to Tijuana, where they remain in fear for their lives,” the lawsuit states.
Another woman, identified as Dinora Doe from Honduras, presented herself to US border authorities after her and her 18-year-old daughter were threatened and repeatedly raped by MS-13 gang members. The complaint accuses CBP officials of misinforming Dinora Doe of her rights under US law, and denying her the chance to apply for asylum.
The lawsuit also names Al Otro Lado, a legal aid organization that helps migrants on both sides of the border, as a plaintiff because it has allegedly been forced to divert significant resources to counteract CBP’s actions.