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CBP agents wrote fake court dates on paperwork to send migrants back to Mexico, records show

Gustavo Solis, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

Goodwin expected the process to take 45 minutes so she went to a nearby Whataburger and ordered a chocolate milkshake. About 40 minutes later, she got a phone call from her client.

"She was hysterical and crying," Goodwin said. "I'm like, 'what happened?' and she says, 'I'm in Mexico.'"

Goodwin called CBP and Mexican immigration authorities to try to find out what happened. She spent five hours at the border until 9 p.m. and then went back home to draft a lawsuit. It wasn't until she threatened to sue CBP that her client was paroled into the United States.

"It was total chaos for 24 hours to try to figure it out," Goodwin said. "It shouldn't be like that, especially when CBP is blatantly lying. They are creating documents that have false information."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association said the practice worried them.

"The idea that even though these vulnerable individuals are able to obtain an asylum grant from an immigration judge and CBP is sending them back to harm's way in Mexico is really disturbing, especially under the guise that there's a future hearing date," said Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel for the organization.


Mexico's Institute for National Migration did not immediately respond to questions about this practice.

Although Ghazialam and Goodwin were able to eventually get their clients back in the United States, some people are still in Mexico.

That's what happened to a Guatemalan woman and her two children after a judge terminated their case on Oct. 18. The same day the judge closed their case, a U.S. immigration official gave her a piece of paper with the false hearing date of Jan. 16, 2020.

"But this appointment does not exist," said the woman's New York City-based attorney Rebecca Press. "If you check with the immigration court system there is no January hearing date and the case has already been terminated."


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