Congressional lawmakers say asylum seekers in CBP can't access legal counsel they need

Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2023 - 6:07pm
Updated: Tuesday, August 1, 2023 - 6:09pm

Democratic lawmakers in Washington say the Biden administration is failing to provide access to legal counsel for asylum seekers held in Customs and Border Protection custody. 

Under a policy that went into effect this spring, some migrants are undergoing initial asylum screenings in CBP custody, sometimes within a day of their arrival.

In a letter this week, 66 members of Congress, including Arizona’s Raúl Grijalva, say that tight window makes it almost impossible to build a case for asylum or find a lawyer.

The lawmakers say LGBTQ individuals, people under 21, and survivors of sexual trauma are among those being subjected to the new, fast-tracked process. And especially without legal help, even asylum seekers with strong cases face long odds trying to stay in the U.S.

"Navigating U.S. laws and agencies in a foreign language and while detained would prove dizzying for most asylum seekers. Undergoing fear screenings in CBP custody would therefore present insurmountable challenges even if every asylum seeker had an attorney by their side," the letter reads. "And yet in CBP custody today, asylum seekers face severely obstructed access to counsel."

Lawmakers say CBP should stop conducting asylum screenings in custody to restore due process.


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