Cárdenas, Correa, Escobar Call for Investigation into Reports of CBP Officials Issuing Fake Court Notices to Asylees
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Tony Cárdenas? CA-29), along with Representatives J. Luis Correa (CA-46) and Veronica Escobar (TX-16), led a coalition of more than 50 House Members in calling on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to open an investigation into recent reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials are issuing fake court notices and barring refugees from entering the United States after being granted asylum. In a letter to the DHS OIG, the congressional delegation asked that a full report of the investigation be sent to the United States House of Representatives and should agency officials be found criminally liable that they are held accountable.
The letter was signed by Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29); Rep. J. Luis Correa (CA-46); Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31); Rep. Don Beyer Jr. (VA-08); Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03); Rep. Andre Carson (IN-07); Rep. Katherine Castor (FL-11); Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27); Rep. Gil Cisneros (CA-39); Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05); Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11); Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04); Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03); Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13); Rep. Bill Foster (IL-14); Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07); Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García (IL-4); Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29); Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03); Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA-34); Rep. Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03); Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07); Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17); Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19); Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47); Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2); Rep. Jerry Nadler (NY-10); Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA-32); Rep. Joe Neguse (CO-02); Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52); Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-4); Rep. Linda Sánchez (CA-38); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09); Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41); Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35); Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13); Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51); Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43); Rep. Peter Welch (VT); Rep Susan Wild (PA-07); Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-07); Rep. Danny K. Davis (CA-53); Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23); Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37); Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20); rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02)
“According to news reports, refugees who have been granted asylum are intentionally being given incorrect information by CBP officials as a strategy to keep them out of the U.S. This type of behavior by a government agency is abhorrent, violates the rule of law, and is antithetical to our values and the very essence of what we stand for as a nation,” the Members wrote. “We request that DHS Inspector General answer our questions, investigate this matter, and issue a full report to the United States House of Representatives. Additionally, if the investigation finds that officials are criminally liable, we demand that they are held accountable immediately and referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution.
The text of the letter is copied below, and the full letter can be found here.
December 20, 2019
The Honorable Joseph V. Cuffari
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane SW
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Inspector General Cuffari:
We write to request the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) open an investigation into recent reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials are issuing fake court notices and barring refugees from entering the United States after being granted asylum. According to news reports, refugees who have been granted asylum are intentionally being given incorrect information by CBP officials as a strategy to keep them out of the U.S. This type of behavior by a government agency is abhorrent, violates the rule of law, and is antithetical to our values and the very essence of what we stand for as a nation.
In January, DHS began implementation of the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) a policy that has broad disapproval from lawmakers. Under MPP, families and children fleeing violence and seeking asylum are forced to remain in Mexico as they wait for their asylum case to be adjudicated. To date, over 54,000 migrants have been placed in this program.
Reports indicate four individuals have been denied the ability to stay in the U.S. after being granted asylum. In one case, a Cuban refugee was forced by DHS to return to Mexico even after his request for asylum in the U.S. was granted by a judge because DHS decided to appeal his case. These appeals can take months or even years to complete.
This is not an insignificant burden. People who are forced to remain in Mexico face ongoing threats of murder, sexual violence, kidnapping, and other harm. To date, the State Department designated 31 travel advisories in Mexico including five Mexican states explicitly noting “do not travel” due to unsafe conditions in Mexico. The warning notes that these states are hotspots of drug cartel activity and are either hosting trafficking routes or extensive drug-crop cultivation. The fact that federal government officials are putting people at risk and forcing refugees who have been granted asylum to remain in Mexico is unacceptable. CBP officials are allegedly providing fraudulent documents to refugees who have already been adjudicated as needing protection in an effort to dissuade them from staying in the country. Even CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan recently stated, “that [fake documents] shouldn’t be happening.” We need immediate answers about these practices.
We call for a full and thorough investigation to determine the extent of these practices, examining, among other things the following questions:
- Were CBP officials given any guidance with regards to individuals who obtained relief (this includes musters, official guidance from CBP or DHS leadership)?
- Was CBP or DHS leadership aware that officials were issuing fake hearing notices to asylum seekers who had been granted asylum to the U.S.? When did CBP officials start issuing fake hearing notices to asylum recipients? Who approved such notices?
- If CBP confirms such notices, provide the following information on individuals who have been returned to Mexico following an immigration judge’s decision to grant any form of relief or terminate the case, including:
- Family Unit status;
- Whether they were granted relief or had their case terminated;
- Port of entry at which they were returned to Mexico;
- Date of the relief grant or termination;
- Date that CBP has asked them to return to the port of entry;
- Whether ICE OPLA in fact sought an appeal in their case, and the status of any such appeal;
- Whether the individual in fact returned to the port of entry on the date provided on the MPP tear sheet.
- Have CBP officials provided any guidance to officers on how to process individuals who return to a port of entry on the date listed on the MPP tear sheet, who do not have a court hearing because they have previously been granted relief or have had their cases terminated?
- Has the Inspector General received complaints on this issue? If so, when were they received and how many?
- How many fake hearing notices have been provided to asylum recipients to date?
- Has any CBP senior official intimated or explicitly ordered CBP officers to issue false documents to asylum seekers?
We request that DHS Inspector General answer our questions, investigate this matter, and issue a full report to the United States House of Representatives. Additionally, if the investigation finds that officials are criminally liable, we demand that they are held accountable immediately and referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution.
We look forward to a prompt response to our above concerns.