Migrant Family Seeking Asylum Turned Away At Otay Mesa Port of Entry - NBC 7 San Diego
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Migrant Family Seeking Asylum Turned Away At Otay Mesa Port of Entry

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    Migrant Family Seeking Asylum Turned Away At Otay Mesa POE

    NBC 7's Melissa Adan explains what the family was told by CBP officers at the border. (Published Monday, Dec. 3, 2018)

    San Diego immigration lawyers say Customs and Border Protection officers broke international law by turning away a family seeking asylum at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

    Last month, a family part of the migrant caravan was recorded approaching CBP officers at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in Tijuana asking to speak with immigration.

    But before one woman could finish her sentence, they were all denied.

    “You all need to go to the other port of entry, OK, in San Ysidro,” is what an officer said to the family in Spanish. “We are not accepting anyone here.”

    CBP told NBC 7 that the ports of entry are all at capacity, citing nearly 2,800 people without documents waiting in Tijuana to speak with agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

    “The law is clear. If you show up at the border you must take the applicant in and process them for asylum,” San Diego immigration attorney Cesar Luna said.

    Luna said he questions the officers’ response in this situation.

    “It’s against both U.S. law and international law to reject asylum applicants,” Luna said. “Each port of entry should have designated officers trained and a sufficient amount of officers to receive asylum applicants.”

    In a statement CBP said in part:

    “No one is being denied the opportunity to make a claim of credible fear or seek asylum. CBP officers allow more people into our facilities for processing once space becomes available or other factors allow for additional parties to arrive.”

    “Hopefully the government will realize that more resources are needed to accept these individuals and hopefully this will only be a temporary issue,” said Luna.

    CBP said the individuals from the caravan would be processed after the 2,800 already waiting, and that could take about five to eight weeks.

    Luna called the wait time unreasonable.

    “I trust our government can be much more efficient than that, this more a matter of will,” Luna said.

    A spokesperson for CBP said they are reviewing the video in question but provided no answers to questions .

    Below is the full statement from Customs and Border Protection:

    “The system was already at capacity before the arrival of the caravan, not just with CBP at the border, but at all points of our immigration system. Prior to the arrival of the migrant caravan, there were approximately 2,800 people without documents to enter the U.S. waiting in Tijuana to present themselves to a CBP officer at the San Ysidro port of entry. The individuals from the caravan would be processed after those individuals, starting in about 5-8 weeks.

    When our ports of entry reach capacity, when their ability to manage all of their missions — counter-narcotics, national security, facilitation of lawful trade — is challenged by the time and the space to process people that are arriving without documents, from time to time we have to manage the queues and address that processing based on that capacity. CBP processes undocumented persons as expeditiously as possible without negating the agency's overall mission, or compromising the safety of individuals within our custody.

    The number of inadmissible individuals CBP is able to process varies based upon case complexity; available resources; medical needs; translation requirements; holding/detention space; overall port volume; and ongoing enforcement actions. No one is being denied the opportunity to make a claim of credible fear or seek asylum. CBP officers allow more people into our facilities for processing once space becomes available or other factors allow for additional parties to arrive. Under ideal conditions with current resources and staffing, CBP officers at the San Ysidro port of entry can process about 100 inadmissible individuals each day, if there is capacity available at the border crossing to hold them.

    Port of Entry facilities were not designed to hold hundreds of people at a time who may be seeking asylum. And we are also charged with keeping the flow of legitimate trade and travel. Balancing these demands, keeping illicit goods and people out of the country, and managing the influx of Central Americans seeking asylum (along with everything else we do) requires a careful balance of our resources and space.

    Depending upon port circumstances at the time of arrival, individuals presenting without documents may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities.

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