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October 24, 2017

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing for CBP Commissioner

Washington, D.C.— As the Senate considers the nomination of Kevin McAleenan for commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Human Rights First urges members of the Senate Committee on Finance to raise questions about illegal turn backs of asylum seekers at the southern border and efforts to stop the import of goods made by forced labor.

“As the Trump Administration continues its campaign to undermine the U.S. asylum system, senators should use today’s opportunity to press McAleenan on evidence showing that CBP agents have  illegally turned back vulnerable individuals seeking protection from persecution,” said Human Rights First’s Olga Byrne.

Human Rights First released a report in May documenting dozens of instances in which U.S. border agents illegally turned away asylum seekers from the southern border. The report, “Crossing the Line,” was based on 125 cases of asylum seekers turned away at ports of entry by CBP agents in violation of U.S. law and treaty obligations. CBP spokespersons’ statements following the report’s release further confirmed CBP’s responsibility to uphold U.S. law and international legal obligations to receive and process asylum seekers. 

In the wake of the Trump Administration’s executive orders on immigration—including the original travel ban—some CBP officers illegally turned away asylum seekers at ports of entry across the U.S.-Mexico border. Shortly following the orders, attorneys in Texas reported CBP agents at the Hidalgo port of entry told asylum seekers, “Trump says we don’t have to let you in.” In February 2017, CBP agents at the Ped-West entry point told an asylum seeker that “the United States is not giving asylum anymore.” Some media reports also indicated CBP agents turned away asylum seekers at major U.S. airports, including a Syrian woman who sought asylum after her visa was unexpectedly revoked.

Human Rights First also calls on senators to question McAleenan on the CBP’s efforts to investigate products manufactured with forced labor. The United States currently imports an estimated $142 billion worth of goods that are likely to be made with forced labor. These goods are banned from entering the United States per section 307 of the Tariff Act as it was amended in February of 2016. There has been a small increase in enforcement of the ban since then, though with so many at-risk goods flowing into the U.S. marketplace, CBP needs to significantly increase investigations into these goods. Additionally, with the data provided by the Departments of Labor and State about goods potentially produced with forced labor, CBP should prioritize self-initiating investigations of products manufactured within private sector supply chains.

For more information contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.