Video shows Texas civil rights lawyer attacked for trying to help asylum seekers

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A lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project said he was injured on Thursday after security guards violently removed him from a hotel in McAllen where asylum seekers, including children, are being held without due process rights.

Footage of the incident shows three men approach attorney Andy Udelsman after he enters a floor of the Hampton hotel where the children are being held. When Udelsman asks them who they are, the men ignore him and refuse to let him pass.

Unable to move any further, Udelsman begins trying to talk to the asylum seekers being held in the individual rooms. “I’m an attorney here to help,” he shouts in Spanish. “If you need help tell me your name!”

After he begins trying to speak to the asylum seekers, one of the men pushes Udelsman down the hallway and slams him into the elevator. 

As he’s being removed, Udelsman asks the men if they are police.

“Don’t worry about who we are,” one of them responds.

The men are not police officers or federal agents, but MVM private security contractors hired by Homeland Security to guard detained asylum seekers that are being denied due process. 

The shady components are part of a larger process by the Trump administration to use the COVID-19 pandemic to shut down the nation’s asylum system. 

Under normal circumstances, asylum seekers are legally allowed to plead their cases in immigration court in order to prevent their deportation. But since the pandemic began in March, federal immigration officials have simply begun removing them from the U.S. without concerns for legality.

At least 2,000 unaccompanied children have been expelled since March, when the Trump administration began forgoing the legal process by citing public health concerns, according to the Associated Press.

Udelsman said the children in the hotel aren’t even given a processing number that they could use to review their status. He said children are taken in the middle of the night and once in the hotel, aren’t allowed to contact anyone.

“There is no legal process,” Udelsman said. “It’s just, they’re apprehended and then they disappear.” 

Udelsman said the only reason the Texas Civil Rights Project knew that people were being detained in the McAllen hotel is because a client, a 13-year-old girl, suddenly appeared in El Salvador and called the civil rights group after being expelled from the U.S. 

He stressed that the removal of these children from the U.S. were not deportations, because deportations have legal processes. Instead, the actions constituted as expulsions and suspected federal immigration officials were holding asylum seekers in hotels in order to avoid the public eye and lawyers.

“These are people that the government is contracting to guard children. Imagine how they interact with the children,” Udelsman said. “It’s really frightening to think what conditions the children are in.”

Photo: Texas Civil Rights Project

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