Photo by John Schreiber.

An immigrant-rights organization, with the backing of two other groups, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday accusing Customs and Border Protection of “systematically” blocking people seeking asylum in the United States from entering the country at various points of entry, including two in San Diego.

Attorneys for Al Otro Lado Inc. contend the violations have been occurring since at least 2016, with asylum seekers being denied entry, coerced into signing documents giving up their asylum claims and being “forcefully” removed from border-crossing points of entry.

A spokesman for CBP said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

CBP officials “have systematically violated U.S. law and binding international human rights law by refusing to allow individuals, … who present themselves at (points of entry) along the U.S.-Mexico border and assert their intention to apply for asylum or a fear of returning to their home countries, to seek protection in the United States,” according to the proposed class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

The American Immigration Council and Center for Constitutional Rights are also taking part in the legal action.

The suit accuses CBP of using tactics “including misrepresentations, threats and intimidation, verbal abuse and physical force and coercion” to deny asylum seekers access to the asylum process.

“CBP officials have, for example, misinformed asylum seekers that they could not apply for asylum because `Donald Trump just signed new laws saying there is no asylum for anyone,’ coerced asylum seekers into signing forms abandoning their asylum claims by threatening to take their children away, threatened to deport asylum seekers back to their home countries, where they face persecution, if they persisted in their attempts to seek asylum and even forcefully removed asylum seekers from (points of entry),” according to the lawsuit.

The suit contends violations have occurred at various border crossings, including San Ysidro and Otay Mesa in San Diego; Tecate; Calexico; Nogales, Arizona; and four in Texas — Eagle Pass, El Paso, Laredo and Hidalgo.

Six asylum seekers are named as plaintiffs in the suit. One of them, identified as Abigail Doe, was targeted along with her family and threatened with “death or severe harm” by a Mexican drug cartel, prompting her to travel with her children to the San Ysidro border crossing, the suit states. Once there, CBP officials “coerced” her into “signing a form withdrawing her application for admission to the United States.”

“As a result of defendants’ conduct, A.D. and her children were unable to access the asylum process and were forced to return to Tijuana, where they remain in fear for their lives,” according to the suit.

— City News Service

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