A report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watchdog continues to confirm that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lied when it turned away asylum-seekers by claiming officials couldn’t process these families because U.S. ports of entry were full, BuzzFeed News reports.
“We found two ports had stopped using available detention space,” even as families were waiting in Mexico, the DHS inspector general said in a report (which was public for a short time before it became no longer available). “Management at those ports said staffing was insufficient to monitor the rooms. However, other staff we interviewed disagreed with that assessment.” The report also continues to confirm former DHS Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen is a liar, but we already knew that.
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American Immigration Council counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick tweeted that Nielsen claimed under oath to Congress in late 2018 that she’d taken no actions to reduce CBP’s ability to process asylum-seekers at ports of entry. But Nielsen perjured herself (it wouldn’t be the first time), because the report says she’d earlier that year ordered policy intentionally designed to limit how many asylum-seekers can be processed per day.
“In May 2018, DHS and CBP leaders anticipated an increase in undocumented aliens seeking entry at the southern border,” the inspector general’s report said. “[A] few weeks later, then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asked CBP for the estimated ‘number of [undocumented aliens] that would likely be turned away’ if all ports conducted ‘Queue Management.’ After learning that CBP could turn away 650 undocumented aliens every day, the Secretary instructed ports to implement Queue Management.”
Nielsen further claimed in a tweet the summer that if “you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry.” But it was Nielsen herself who was forcing families to do just that: “After waiting in Queue Management lines or being redirected to other ports, some asylum seekers and other undocumented aliens crossed the border illegally between ports of entry,” the inspector general’s report continued.
The report also found that CBP unlawfully turned away asylum-seekers after they’d entered the country.
“Moreover, although asylum seekers legally must be processed once physically within the United States, we found CBP staff turned away asylum seekers at four ports after they had already entered the United States,” the report said. “For instance, our fieldwork indicated, CBP officers at San Ysidro and Tecate ports returned to Mexico asylum seekers who had not only crossed over the international boundary into the United States, but also had entered the ports’ buildings.”
As Ramos noted in her tweets, CBP has long been lying about its ability to process asylum-seekers. In just one example last year, an officer had told a pregnant woman, her husband, and their 3-year-old son, “We’re full” when they presented themselves at the Paso del Norte port of entry. But unbeknownst to the officials, Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and his staffers were behind them, having visited at a Mexican shelter. Miraculously, the family was then allowed to pass through after Wyden intervened.
“I feel very confident that if the family had tried to present alone, they would not have been allowed in,” immigration attorney Taylor Levy told The Washington Post at the time.