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Migrant Protection Protocols: Wrong Addresses Being Used for Migrants

NBC News reports on December 19th that attorneys representing migrants seeking asylum at the border say that U.S. border agents are systematically writing the same wrong address on paperwork of the migrants, purposely causing hundreds of them with no way in which to receive communication about their cases and thereby undermining their ability find out if they have been granted asylum in the U.S.

Several examples of this paperwork where the erroneous addresses are present, reflect “Casa del Migrante,” a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – the migrants have never visited the shelter and would never receive any immigration communication being delivered there. The attorneys for these migrants plan to file a brief with the Supreme Court, urging consideration of the validity of Trump administration policy known as “Remain in Mexico,” leaving over 60,000 Central Americans in dangerous conditions as they wait in Mexico for years before being admitted into to the United States.

The brief to be filed by the Justice Action Center and the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley will state, “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.”

What the migrants have not been receiving are their NTAs or Notices to Appear. NTAs provide when and where the migrants should arrive in immigration court for future asylum hearings and how the migrants will further be reached by the government about additional status and movement on their cases. Agents are supposed to then give the migrants NTAs based on information they and the court provided.

Because many of the migrants have not received their NTAs due to the provision of falsified addresses by the Border Agents, they fail to appear in court – and if they do not appear, they could be deemed in absentia by a judge and ordered to be deported to their home countries without making their cases for asylum. Under the Remain in Mexico policy, many immigrants have been deported for failing to show up to their proceedings, and the false addresses could be one of the many reasons they don’t appear.

Worse, even when the migrants give correct addresses of relatives and/or friends that they are in contact with in the U.S., the Border Agents in El Paso still provide the false Case del Migrante shelter address in Mexico on their documents, ignoring the information they were provided. Other attorneys have seen additional false addresses written in by the agents, for example, “Facebook” or “known address” entered into the form address fields in Spanish.

Justice Action Center states that, “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.”

The fact of the matter is that many of the migrants are unaware of the issue until they are working with a lawyer who looks into their paperwork and discovers the erroneous addresses.

It was recently ruled by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that immigrants must provide U.S. addresses to receive correspondence on their legal cases. If addresses are being falsified by Border Agents, asylum seekers subject to the Remain in Mexico policy will not be applicable based on this ruling.

Attorneys filing the brief are hopeful that the court will see from examples presented that the Remain in Mexico policy has inconsistencies, creates emergency situations and that arguments against it should be heard fully.

For more information about the Remain in Mexico policy, visit: https://www.aila.org/advo-media/aila-correspondence/2019/call-for-end-to-remain-in-mexico-program