A dozen asylum-seeking migrants traveling in the caravan through Central America to the United States are fighting the Trump administration before arriving at the border, filing a class-action lawsuit against the president, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Attorney General, among others.
Filed Thursday evening at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. by twelve Honduran nationals, including six children, the suit alleged that the president’s border policy is “shockingly unconstitutional” and the government is trying to “deter Central Americans from exercising their lawful right to seek asylum in the United States.”
The president’s proposed plan to stop these asylum-seeking migrants at the border, or indefinitely detaining them under unsuitable conditions when they arrive, violates their due-process rights granted under the Fifth Amendment, the suit argued.
“The legal problem with Trump’s plan to stop caravan persons from entering this country is that Plaintiffs are seeking asylum, and Trump simply cannot stop them from legally doing so by using military, or anyone,” read the complaint, which also names the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as defendants.
The suit added that it is widely known that Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are “undergoing a well-documented human rights crisis,” and therefore it is within the migrants’ rights to seek asylum under the Administrative Procedures Act and the Declaratory Judgement Act.
“President Trump has begun hysterically asserting without any evidence that “many criminals” and “many gang members” are in this “onslaught of migrant,” the suit stated. “In an effort to create fear and hysteria, Trump has gone so far as to call this “an invasion of our County. Despite these statements and actions, Trump has been unable to produce any evidence of criminals and gang members within the caravan, which has largely proceeded peacefully on its journey.”
Mike Donovan, president of Nexus Services, the firm that filed the lawsuit, argued that federal law allows migrants to apply for asylum in the United States. Additionally, he argued, the migrants’ rights are being infringed upon by the Trump administrations “increased enforcement” policies, like separating families or using military force at the border.
“The President’s rhetoric has inspired gun-toting racists to flood the border with the desire to shoot and kill migrants, many of whom are women and children,” Donovan said in a statement obtained by The Daily Beast on Friday.
He continued: “The President is violating federal law, trampling the rights of Americans and legal immigrants to be free from use of the military for law enforcement, and has set up a potential catastrophe at the US/Mexico border all in the name of white nationalism and with the objective of scoring political points.”
This filing comes as a response to Trump’s increasingly negative rhetoric about the caravan, including his public promises on Thursday to take executive action next week to end “abuse” of the U.S. asylum system.
“These illegal caravans will not be allowed into the United States,” Trump said of the caravan, which is still located roughly 1,000 miles from the U.S. border. “They should turn back now. They’re wasting their time.”
Seemingly the latest attempt to push his anti-immigration policies to the forefront just days before the midterm elections, Trump’s remarks offered few new details on his actual plans, instead reiterating the unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories he and his allies have made, alleging the caravan poses a national-security threat.
“We will not allow our generosity to be abused by those who would break our laws,” the president declared. “There’s a limit to how many people a nation can responsibly absorb into their society.”
As detailed in the lawsuit, Trump called the group—which includes many families with children—a dangerous “invasion.” To date, about 4,000 people are traveling by foot toward the U.S. border, although Trump has falsely doubled the numbers and repeatedly suggested terrorists and other criminals are among the caravan.
To contain this “invasion,” Trump announced on Thursday a plan to erect “massive tent cities” at the southern border to hold migrants indefinitely—an attempt to make it more difficult for them to stay in the United States.
The complaint addressed this plan, and alleged that tent cities would violate the Flores Agreement, which is designed to ensure the safety of immigrant children because the facilities are not “safe and sanitary.”
“Despite the Flores Agreement lawfully binding mandates, President Trump’s policy position is to put these very children in tents, touting that ‘when they find out this happens, [held in tents for years in the desert] you’re going to have far fewer people come up,’” the complaint stated. “Clearly President Trump cannot believe that his tents are facilities run by licensed programs as required by the Flores Agreements.”
There other legal issue at stake, according to the lawsuit, is that Trump’s recent announcement to deploy 15,000 U.S. troops border—and possibly even into Mexico—would infringe upon the asylum-seekers’ rights.
“Defendant Nielsen has already admitted that these troops, and CBP agents, cannot enter Mexico to prevent the immigrants from entering the U.S. to seek asylum,” the suit stated.
Despite possible legal issues, Trump was clear on Wednesday to reporters when he announced the decision to deploy active troops to the border: “We’re going to be prepared. They are not coming into our country.”
However, General Martin Dempsey, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, slammed Trump’s rhetoric in a tweet late Thursday, calling the large number of troops currently stationed at the border a “wasteful deployment” and said they wouldn't “use force disproportional to the threat they face.”
“Our men and women in uniform are better trained, better equipped, and better led so they meet any threat with confidence,” he wrote. “A wasteful deployment of over-stretched Soldiers and Marines would be made much worse if they use force disproportionate to the threat they face. They won’t.”