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Public (Including Media) Denied Access to Border Courts

September 11, 2019 (1 min read)

Adolfo Flores, BuzzFeed News, Sept. 11, 2019

"Tent border courts for asylum-seekers forced to return to Mexico under a Trump administration policy have opened for hearings Wednesday in Laredo, Texas — but few got to see inside as the public, including media, was denied access.

A DHS officer who didn’t wear a name tag and declined to offer his name said the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) hearings were not open to the public and that only law enforcement, attorneys with clients who had hearings that day, and government contractors would be allowed inside. 

“It’s not a public hearing,” the DHS officer told BuzzFeed News.

A DHS official said that while immigration court proceedings are generally open to the public, asylum hearings at the tent facilities were unique from other immigration courts because of “the law enforcement sensitive priorities” of the nearby official border crossings.

“These soft-sided facilities will not be open to in-person public access, including media access,” the DHS official said.

The public, including the media, will have the ability to observe proceedings at immigration courts in San Antonio, DHS said, where judges who are conducting hearings via video teleconference are located more than 150 miles away. MPP hearings at tents in Brownsville are expected to start Thursday."

[Editor's Note: I'm hoping media organizations will sue DHS and DOJ.  This is a clear violation of 8 C.F.R. 1003.27.]