Challenging CBP One Turnback Policy

AOL et. al v. Mayorkas, Case No. 3:23-cv-01367-AGS-BLM (S.D. Cal.)


This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s border-wide policy and practice of turning back asylum seekers without a CBP One appointment at ports of entry (POEs) along the southern border, denying them access to the U.S. asylum process. The suit seeks to end U.S. Customs and Border Protection's newest iteration of unlawful metering, and to ensure that the government is complying with U.S. laws meant to protect asylum seekers' rights and safety.

People arriving at POEs have the right to seek asylum without artificial caps or technological barriers. For decades, Congress has mandated equitable treatment for all who seek protection from persecution, regardless of how they arrive in the United States. The federal government itself has publicized guidance requiring CBP officers to inspect and process anyone who comes to POEs seeking asylum, whether or not they have a CBP One appointment.

Restricting asylum access to only individuals who can use a smartphone app imposes unfair and at times, insurmountable, barriers for asylum seekers. The CBP One Turnback Policy, under which CBP officers turn back most asylum seekers who cannot secure an appointment made via the CBP One app, creates language, literacy, and disability access issues.

The government’s reliance on the CBP One app creates a privileged waitlist, restricting access to asylum to a select group of people who have both the economic means to afford a functioning smartphone and internet access, but also the tech savviness necessary to navigate the app—causing unreasonable delays and endangering asylum seekers' lives. Even those able to use the app are denied appointments due to limited slots, forcing indefinite waits in precarious conditions in Mexico.

The plaintiffs in the case are immigrant rights organizations Al Otro Lado and Haitian Bridge Alliance, and 10 individuals turned away at the southern border by CBP and denied their fundamental right to seek asylum in the United States.

The CBP One Turnback Policy has harmed plaintiffs, leaving them vulnerable to assault, rape, kidnapping, and even murder in dangerous Mexican border towns. It also disrupts organizations' missions, diverting resources to counteract the policy's harmful effects.

Plaintiffs are represented by the American Immigration Council, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), and the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with Mayer Brown LLP and others.

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