The Trump administration has expanded its new asylum claim review program to the Rio Grande Valley.
The Prompt Asylum Claim Review program, or PACR, has been in effect in El Paso since October.
Migrants in the PACR program are kept in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities instead of detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The ACLU, which filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, CBP and others in December, said the PACR program makes it much more difficult for asylum seekers to access legal counsel to help them with their credible fear proceedings.
“In ICE custody, these asylum seekers were afforded more time and opportunity to contact counsel or prospective counsel or others to aid them in their credible fear proceedings,” said the lawsuit. “They could also meet with attorneys, both in person and telephonically, prior to the credible fear interview with an asylum officer and again prior to an immigration judge’s review of any negative credible fear determination.”
The lawsuit alleges that an asylum seeker in the program in CBP custody is only given about 30 minutes to an hour to contact family members, or prospective attorneys from a limited list provided by CBP.
“There is no callback number or other means by which lawyers may attempt to reach clients or prospective clients,” said the lawsuit. “Even when an asylum seeker does manage to contact an attorney, PACR ensures that the asylum seeker does not have a meaningful opportunity to consult with that attorney. CBP denies attorneys physical access to its facilities, precluding all in-person meetings.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that ICE facilities have a tracking system for families and attorneys to locate migrants in their custody, but CBP does not have a similar tracking system.
“Its facilities were designed for short-term detention and not for asylum seekers going through a credible fear process,” said the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for CBP said the program streamlines asylum claims and confirmed that 1,000 people are currently in the PACR program in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso.