Three researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, all American citizens, were denied reentry into the United States by Customs and Border Patrol agents earlier this month. The UT researchers were accompanying an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum at a port of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We are seeing a dangerous escalation of retaliation against individuals who work to ensure that asylum seekers are treated lawfully by U.S. officials,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the ACLU Border Rights Center. “The agency’s latest action is a direct violation of U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights, boldly disregarding their right to enter their own country. We’re calling for an investigation and real changes that will put an end to CBP’s actions as an unsupervised power with no accountability to the public.”
After two and a half hours, the researchers were allowed to re-enter the United States and the child’s asylum claim was processed.
More details of the situation as outlined by ACLU counsel are below:
“At, or around 4:05 pm, the three approached CBP agents stationed at the middle of the Eagle Pass International Bridge II opposite Piedras Negras, Mexico along with an unaccompanied minor. CBP agents had previously unlawfully turned away the child when seeking asylum days earlier. The child immediately stepped forward to tell the CBP officers he was there to seek asylum. Ms. Leutert and her colleagues made it clear to agents they were not seeking to accompany the child into the United States but were rather there to ensure CBP processed the child as an asylum seeker, as required by law. After CBP officers mid- bridge made unknown calls on their radio, Mexican authorities approached the group and threatened them with arrest for having accompanied the child to the bridge.”