Migrants seeking asylum and fearing for their safety if sent to Mexico should be represented by immigration lawyers to address their fears, preliminarily determined Judge Dana Sabraw of San Diego, California.
In a ruling issued Tuesday afternoon, the federal district judge extended to all migrants with similar fears a decision he initially granted in November to a Guatemalan family who asked to remain in San Diego because they had been assaulted, threatened and harassed by people in uniform while travelling in Mexico.
Now migrants with well-founded fears of returning to Mexico’s northern border must have legal representation.
The decision comes as a result of a class action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of six members of that Guatemalan family.
“In a non-refoulement interview (in which migrants are asked not to be returned to where they may face torture or death) the nature of the facts presented in the interview is at stake, and it is undeniable that access to a lawyer is important,” the judge ruled on Tuesday.
Monika Langarica, an immigrant rights attorney with the ACLU’s San Diego chapter, said Wednesday that it was illegal for authorities to deny migrants the right to have lawyers present at their hearings to explain their fear of being sent to Mexico.
“The decision requiring the government to allow people in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody to consult with their attorney is a victory for the right to legal representation (?) and for people who seek asylum in the United States but are forced to remain in Mexico despite the fear of being there,” Langarica told Efe.
“Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the government must deny a person the right to have representation by lawyers,” he elaborated.
The lawyer said she did not know how many migrants could benefit from the judge’s preliminary decision, but noted that in the area covered by the San Diego immigration courts, some 14,000 migrants were waiting in the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Mexicali.
Along the Mexican border, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program has sent some 52,000 migrants to await resolutions and hearings for their asylum claims.