Our Work » Litigation » Al Otro Lado and Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Mayorkas

Al Otro Lado and Haitian Bridge Alliance v. Mayorkas

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Case Status: 
Open

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 3:23-cv-01367-AGS-BLM

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 23-3396

What is the government doing and why are we challenging it? 

This lawsuit challenges the Biden administration’s policy and widespread practice of requiring asylum seekers at the southwest border to make an advance appointment via the government’s CBP One smartphone app in order to seek asylum at a port of entry (POE).

On May 12, 2023, the Biden administration promulgated a rule that established a sweeping ban on asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. As a practical matter, most asylum seekers at the southern border can avoid the ban only by scheduling a CBP One appointment at a POE. Though the rule was recently struck down as unlawful, it remains in effect as that case makes its way through the courts. The government has given no indication that it will change its policy of turning back asylum seekers who do not have a CBP One appointment, regardless of whether the rule remains in effect.

The lawsuit charges that, since its inception, the CBP One app has been inaccessible to the most vulnerable and marginalized people seeking safety at the U.S.-Mexico border. Only those who are literate in one of the few languages the app supports and have a relatively new smartphone, a reliable internet connection, and electricity are able to successfully navigate the app.

Under the government’s new turnback policy, individuals who cannot secure a CBP One appointment are unlawfully turned away and denied the opportunity to access the U.S. asylum process altogether, leaving them to languish in encampments and shelters in Mexican border cities where their racial and migrant identities leave them vulnerable to predation and violence.

This lawsuit argues that the government’s policy of turning back asylum seekers who do not have a CBP One appointment violates U.S. law, the government’s own guidance, asylum seekers’ due process rights, and the United States’ obligations under international law, which prohibit the government from returning refugees to countries where they face persecution or torture.

What is at stake? 

This lawsuit seeks to protect asylum seekers who are in Mexico and wish to present at a POE to seek asylum, but have not obtained a CBP One appointment. The plaintiffs include 10 individual asylum seekers who have been turned away and harmed by the new turnback policy, and the nonprofit legal organizations Al Otro Lado and Haitian Bridge Alliance, which serve asylum seekers and other migrants on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The lawsuit documents numerous cases in which asylum seekers unable to obtain CBP One appointments requested asylum at a port of entry, only to be turned away by border officers. The plaintiffs include parents of small children who are now languishing in shelters or informal encampments, afraid to even venture outside given the dangers that await migrants in Mexican border towns. Several of the plaintiffs are Mexican nationals who have been left stranded in the very country they are desperately trying to flee. As they wait for the CBP One app to work and an appointment to materialize, they fear for their lives.

What’s the status of this case? 

CGRS and our co-counsel filed the legal challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on July 27, 2023. We are asking the court to declare the government’s new turnback policy illegal and order the government to stop turning away asylum seekers at or near POEs.

On October 13, 2023, Judge Schopler denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs have appealed the district court's decision to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The government defendants filed a motion to dismiss on November 13, 2023. Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the motion to dismiss on January 12, 2024. The government filed a reply on February 12, 2024, and oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit were held on May 13, 2024.

Who’s involved? 

CGRS is co-counsel, along with the American Immigration Council, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Mayer Brown LLP, and Vinson & Elkins LLP.

How can you help? 

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