Migrants Are Missing Court Dates Because Border Patrol Is Allegedly Writing False Addresses On Their Paperwork
Migrant lawyers are saying United States Customs and Border Patrol agents are willfully listing false addresses for asylum seekers on paperwork to undermine their immigration process. The attorneys were able to uncover the phenomenon because the agents appear to be listing the same address on various migrants’ papers.
The result is that it’s impossible for asylum seekers to receive letters and information from the government about their ongoing immigration court cases. According to NBC News, 18 examples have been included in an amicus brief that migrant attorneys will file with the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the lawyers claim they’ve seen these false addresses applied to hundreds of migrants.
Lawyers hope the brief will challenge the Migrant Protocols Protections also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Roughly 60,000 Central Americans are awaiting their immigration cases while living in overcrowded, unhygienic detention centers in Mexico. The completion of their cases could take years. The law requires that asylum seekers receive notification of any charges or immigration hearings, CBP’s use of false addresses encroaches on their rights, the lawyers will argue.
“Consistent with these international law obligations, federal law recognizes that, at a minimum, asylum seekers must be notified of the charges against them and have rights to a fair hearing,” the brief by the Action Center and the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley reads.
The form where agents are commonly falsifying address is the Notice to Appear (NTA) which is the letter that tells migrants where and when to go to immigration court for their asylum hearings. The cost of missing a court date is everything. If a judge deems them absentia they could be deported.
Currently, CBP is listing many migrants address as a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — a place that the migrants have never even been to.
Make no mistake, migrants are providing their correct addresses. CBP appears to not be listening.
One of the immigrants named in the brief, Angelina, a 42-year-old Cuban migrant told CBP that her contact info is her partner’s address. However, when Angelina met with a lawyer it was clear that agents did not correctly list the address instead opting for the incorrect Casa del Migrante — she’s never been there.
“I have no idea if I missed court dates or if anything was sent to me,” Angelina told NBC News over the phone. “There’s a lot of violence. Every single morning when we wake up, we see and hear on TV about the number of dead overnight. They’re killing women. They’re killing people from the LGBT community.”
Angelina’s lawyer Nicolas Palazzo of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center says most migrants aren’t aware that their addresses aren’t being correctly filed. While an available hotline can provide them with info about their cases, the hotline is often not up to date.
“The risk is not only that the U.S. violates its own procedures under due process, but also the risk of sending back asylum seekers to places they could be tortured or killed,” Karen Tumlin, the founder and director of the Justice Action Center, told NBC News.
Some border patrol agents were listing addresses simply as “Facebook.”
The issue of addresses is getting more complicated. A recent ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said migrants must provide addresses based in the United States (as Angelina did) in order to receive legal correspondence.
“But even when immigrants give U.S. addresses, such as the one Angelina provided, border agents in El Paso are ignoring them and including the address for the shelter in Ciudad Juarez,” NBC notes.
Some agents are just listing “Facebook” as an address for migrants, in other instances, they will list “known address.” Angelina is hopeful that she will be granted asylum, and her attorney has been consistently updating her. However, most migrants detained in Mexico don’t have the resources or way of finding a lawyer. Unlike those imprisoned, a lawyer is not guaranteed to the migrants. Most asylum seekers and other migrants are left to fend for themselves — a seemingly impossible task given the obstacles that lie ahead.
“Hope is the last thing to die,” Angelina said.
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