A.B.-B. v. Morgan

A.B.-B., et al., v. Morgan, et al., No. 1:20-cv-00846-RJL (D.D.C., filed Mar. 27, 2020)

On March 27, 2020, five asylum-seeking mothers and their children filed this action challenging the use of U.S. Border Patrol agents to screen asylum seekers for their “credible fear” of persecution.

Many people seeking asylum at the border must first pass a “credible fear” screening interview before an immigration judge can more fully review their claims. At this interview, asylum seekers provide sensitive details about the persecution they suffered and the reasons they fled. These screenings are not supposed to be interrogations. They must be done by officers trained specifically to evaluate asylum claims and work with victims of trauma. And for decades, that is how these interviews were conducted.

Beginning in April 2019, however, the government quietly started to change who was responsible for conducting the interview. A pilot program replaced some experienced asylum officers with Border Patrol agents—a law enforcement agency with a history of abuse and misconduct toward asylum seekers.

Asylum seekers and attorneys report that Border Patrol agents conduct the interviews like criminal interrogations. Asylum seekers say they are yelled at, cut off when responding, and scolded if they cry or show other signs of trauma.

Border Patrol agents conducted credible fear interviews, and issued negative credible fear determinations, for the plaintiff families while they were detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Their complaint alleges that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official who authorized Border Patrol agents to conduct these interviews was illegally appointed, that only U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has authority to conduct these interviews, and that, contrary to U.S. immigration laws, Border Patrol agents are not properly trained and cannot conduct non-adversarial interviews.

On April 2, 2020, the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and administrative stay and temporarily enjoined their removal. On May 12, 2020, the court heard oral argument on Plaintiffs’ motion seeking a preliminary injunction. The parties submitted supplemental briefing on June 1, 2020.

Counsel: Tahirih Justice Center; Constitutional Accountability Center

Contact: Julie M. Carpenter | Tahirih Justice Center | juliec@tahirih.org