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ACLU Files Suit Over Access To Lawyers For Asylum-Seekers Being Sent Back To Mexico

Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights grou...

Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Above: Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups announce a class action lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection on November 5, 2019

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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday, condemning the treatment of asylum-seekers in the “Remain In Mexico” program. The ACLU says that the migrants are not being allowed to see their lawyers.

Aired: November 6, 2019 | Transcript

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday, condemning the treatment of asylum-seekers in the "Remain In Mexico" program.

The suit was filed in the Southern District of California. The ACLU says that the migrants are not being allowed to see their lawyers.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a Guatemalan family of seven, who have been sent back to Mexico to wait as their asylum claims are processed in the US.

After a court hearing Tuesday morning in San Diego, the family wasn’t taken back to Mexico. Instead, they were put into Customs and Border Protection custody after expressing a fear of return to Mexico, which is dealing with an alarming spate of violence.

But their lawyers had no idea where they’re even being held.

Now, like hundreds of asylum-seekers before them in the program, they’re not being allowed to see a lawyer. This, even as they’re interviewed by CBP about their fear of return to Mexico.

RELATED: San Diego Immigration Courts Lead Nation In Returning Asylum-Seekers To Mexico

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

"That's part of the problem, right?" said Monika Langarica, a staff attorney with the ACLU. "Lawyers don't have access to their clients. They don't know where their clients are being taken. The lawyer's request for information go unanswered. We don’t know where they’re being held right now,"

The ACLU alleges that by barring legal access, the civil rights of the asylum-seekers are being violated.

"We're also filing this case because the right to access a lawyer, the right to consult with a lawyer, and the right to access an attorney is fundamental to who we are as a country," said Norma Chavez Peterson, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

The lawsuit will be heard by Judge Dana Sabraw, the same judge who has presided over the ACLU’s successful Family Separation lawsuit. Over 55,000 asylum-seekers in total have been sent back to Mexico under the Remain in Mexico program.

The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order, granting the ACLU access to their clients, and a preliminary injunction, which would give asylum-seekers access to attorneys while they’re being detained by CBP.

CBP has told KPBS that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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