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A Honduran asylum seeker narrowly escaped death in Honduras. After gangs killed his grandfather and put this man in a coma, he fled to the United States. For two years, he felt safe and was grateful to be alive. Then, in May 2023, he received a call from his sister, who had just fled Honduras as well.  

His sister’s first encounter was with Texas authorities, who proceeded to charge and jail her for three weeks under the anti-immigrant Operation Lone Star. His sister was traumatized from her recent incarceration and crying that she had nowhere to go. Her brother then drove several hours with his U.S. citizen partner to pick up his sister at the Texas jail.  

As the three of them began to drive away, local police stopped them during a routine traffic stop. The police pulled a gun on the Honduran man, asked his immigration status, and called the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP arrested this man and his sister and placed them in a process called “expedited removal,” which allows CBP to quickly deport people if they have are apprehended within 14 days of their entry and within 100 miles of the border. CBP ignored the fact that both this man and his sister had been present for over 14 days and falsely recorded their entrance to the United States as the date of their arrest by CBP— May 20, 2023.  

Suddenly, this man’s life was upended. He was jailed and subjected to President Biden’s “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule, which is an asylum ban the Biden administration imposes on asylum seekers who did not seek asylum en route to the United States or obtain a pre-approved appointment to cross into the United States. This man tried and failed to alert various DHS officials that he had been present in the United States for over two years and should not be subject to expedited removal. Ignoring his pleas, DHS subjected him to the asylum ban’s heightened screening bar and ordered his deportation — two days after his attorney sent written proof that his placement in expedited removal was unlawful.  

One year later, this man continued to live in hiding in Honduras, desperate for his return. His complaint that DHS violated his rights by deporting him illegally remains pending. DHS continues to ignore his attorney’s pleas for his return.  

This man’s story illustrates a perfect storm of anti-immigrant policies: the ramped-up use of expedited removal as a proxy expulsion policy; the use of anti-asylum regulations to heighten requirements for preliminary screenings so asylum seekers fail and are deported; and the collusion between local police and CBP.  

Expedited removal 

In the wake of the end of the Title 42 expulsion policy, the Biden administration ramped up the use of expedited removal as an alternate means to punish and summarily deport asylum seekers. “Expedited Removal” is a process by which people may be rapidly deported without ever seeing an immigration judge. In April 2023, CBP apprehended and placed 8,776 individuals into expedited removal. On May 11, 2023, Title 42 ended. By the end of May, CBP had placed 23,999 individuals into expedited removal—nearly three times as many as in April—including the man and his sister featured in this complaint. How many others were unlawfully subject to expedited removal and deported to harm? 

Heightened screening standards and Biden’s asylum ban 

Asylum seekers in expedited removal must pass a preliminary screening in order to have access to full adjudication of their asylum claim. This screening, called a Credible Fear Interview (CFI), is meant to set a low bar and usher asylum seekers towards full processing. However, the Biden administration has heightened the standard for asylum seekers twice — first, with the "Circumvention of Lawful Pathways" asylum ban issued in May 2023, and second with the proclamation and federal rule issued in June, both of which are subject to lawsuits by NIJC and immigrant rights' partners. As was the case with this Honduran man, many asylum seekers facing threats to their lives have been deported due to these heightened screenings. 

Local police collude with CBP to violate asylum rights 

This case illustrates two pernicious uses of local law enforcement. Operation Lone Star, which resulted in the complainant’s sister’s arrest and incarceration, has cost the state of Texas billions of dollars to criminalize migrants. Upon her release, this woman and her brother faced another troubling trend: the racial profiling and referral to CBP following a routine traffic stop. Neither were driving, but they faced questioning, detention, and a pointed gun simply because they appeared to not be U.S. citizens to local police. The latter’s call to CBP began a spiraling fate for these reunited siblings, subjecting the sister to more traumatizing incarceration, and her brother to permanent banishment.