Lawsuit Seeks To Hold CBP Accountable for Turning Away Asylum Seeker and Falsifying Paper Trail

Lawsuit Seeks To Hold CBP Accountable for Turning Away Asylum Seeker and Falsifying Paper Trail

June 7, 2018

Washington, D.C.— Today, José Crespo Cagnant filed a lawsuit to hold the government accountable for abusive, unlawful conduct and depriving him of an opportunity to apply for asylum. A Mexican national who fears persecution in his country of origin based on sexual orientation, Crespo Cagnant entered the United States in search of protection in 2012. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) took him into custody in Texas, ignored his appeal for protection, and forced him through an expedited deportation process. Further, the Border Patrol officer did not understand and was unable to communicate with   Crespo Cagnant. The officer then falsified documents with inaccurate and fabricated statements.

In an attempt to hold CBP accountable for its unlawful conduct and treatment, Crespo Cagnant filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He is represented by the American Immigration Council; the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP); Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP; and Holland & Knight.

The lawsuit documents how, years later, after returning to the United States and marrying a U.S. citizen, armed officers arrested Crespo Cagnant at his home in Miami and attempted to criminally prosecute him based on the old and unlawful expedited removal order. A district court dismissed the charges against Crespo Cagnant, finding that the Border Patrol officer who had fabricated information on his deportation paperwork did not speak Spanish well enough to understand when Crespo Cagnant said that he was afraid to return to Mexico. The officer also was ununable to explain his rights to him.

The lawsuit seeks damages for the harm it caused Crespo Cagnant and to bring more transparency to the agency’s practices at the border.

“Our nation must ensure access to the asylum process for those with a fear of returning to their countries of origin,” stated Trina Realmuto, directing attorney of the Boston office of the American Immigration Council. “We must prevent immigration enforcement officials from using coercive, abusive, and arbitrary practices against those seeking protection in the United States. All too often, CBP deprives individuals entering the United States of an opportunity to present their fear-based claims, and inserts untrue and even illogical statements into immigration paperwork. Crespo Cagnant’s story illustrates both these serious abuses.”

“When enforcing our immigration laws, the law enforcement officers must also comply with the law,” said Matt Adams, legal director for NWIRP. “In their rush to deport people, immigration officials must not be permitted to trample over the protections that are in place to ensure that a person like Crespo Cagnant is not forcibly returned to persecution or torture.”

Crespo Cagnant said, “I was shocked to learn that they lied about what happened and that they did that to prevent me from getting a chance to apply for asylum.”

“At a bare minimum, we should expect law enforcement officers to tell the truth,” said Jonathan Feinberg, partner at Philadelphia-based civil rights firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP. “When federal officers fail to do so, their false statements harm people like José Crespo Cagnant, and they need to be held accountable.”

The complaint can be found here.

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For more information, contact:

Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, at mfrausto@immcouncil.org or 202-507-7526; or
Matt Adams, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, at matt@nwirp.org or 206-957-8611.

Media Contact

Wendy Feliz, Communications Director 
wfeliz@immcouncil.org 

Maria Frausto, Senior Communications Manager 
mfrausto@immcouncil.org

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