Judge Halts U.S. Plan for Border Agents to Assess Asylum Seekers


A U.S. judge temporarily blocked a Trump administration plan to allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents rather than trained specialists to conduct interviews of asylum seekers to assess whether they have a “credible fear” of persecution at home.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington forcefully rejected as “poppycock” the government’s claim that CBP’s training is comparable to that of specialists at Citizenship and Immigration Services who have long been responsible for carrying out the interviews required under federal immigration law.

“The training requirements cited in the government’s declaration do not come close to being ‘comparable’ to the training requirements of full asylum officers,” Leon said Monday in granting an injunction against the government’s plan.

The decision is a setback for President Donald Trump, who wants to halt the flow of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, including some who travel for weeks or months on foot or in caravans.

Under U.S. law, asylum seekers are interviewed when they arrive at the border to determine if they can demonstrate that they’re likely to be persecuted based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion if they are returned to their home country.

With lives on the line, the two-to-five weeks of training for CBP agents doesn’t come close to the minimum nine weeks required for CIS asylum officers, the judge said.

CBP didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Leon issued the ruling in a case brought by four mothers and seven children from Honduras, Ecuador and Mexico. The families, currently detained at a residential facility in Texas, sought asylum claiming “fears of kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder by individuals connected to politicians or drug cartels in their home countries,” according to the ruling.

The judge previously issued a temporary restraining order blocking the plaintiffs from being removed from the U.S.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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