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Ana Adlerstein detained, criminalised and harassed by immigration officers at US border

Estatus: 
Detained and Harassed
About the situation

On 5 May 2019, Ana Adlerstein was detained by United States immigration officers when accompanying a transgender asylum seeker in Lukeville, Arizona. The human rights defender was held incommunicado for over four hours, during which she was harassed and criminalised.

About Ana Adlerstein

Ana Adlerstein is a journalist and woman human rights defender working on migration rights. She is a member of the Network on Humanitarian Action, an international academic network created to promote capacity building and foster engagement on humanitarian issues; and has worked with immigrant and refugee communities in the United States, Greece and Mexico. She has also reported on human rights and migration issues for the United States-based independent non-profit media organisation NPR and the Guardian.

10 Mayo 2019
Ana Adlerstein detained, criminalised and harassed by immigration officers at US border

On 5 May 2019, Ana Adlerstein was detained by United States immigration officers when accompanying a transgender asylum seeker in Lukeville, Arizona. The human rights defender was held incommunicado for over four hours, during which she was harassed and criminalised.

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Ana Adlerstein is a journalist and woman human rights defender working on migration rights. She is a member of the Network on Humanitarian Action, an international academic network created to promote capacity building and foster engagement on humanitarian issues; and has worked with immigrant and refugee communities in the United States, Greece and Mexico. She has also reported on human rights and migration issues for the United States-based independent non-profit media organisation NPR and the Guardian.

On 5 May 2019, around 5pm, Ana Adlerstein was detained by an armed officer of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Lukeville port of entry, on the United States - Mexico border. The human rights defender was accompanying a Central American transgender asylum seeker when they were both prevented from entering the United States and subjected to verbal abuse. Ana Adlerstein was detained under allegations that she was being investigated by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for being an “illegal human smuggler”.

During her detention, the human rights defender was accused by ICE officers of being a human trafficker. She was denied access to legal representation, even after presenting a letter written by her lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), confirming her United States citizenship and stating that she did not intend to answer questions. Her keys were confiscated, she was separated from the asylum seeker and put in a concrete cell. The human rights defender was also subjected to an invasive body search by a female officer inside the cell. The ICE took her fingerprints and permanent address. After three hours in detention, she was given the option to fill out a form to have her family called and informed that she was safe, without providing them with any other details on her situation. As a result, her mother was contacted at 8pm.

The CBP officers claimed that they “had been waiting to learn from the Department of Homeland Security if [she] would be summoned”. Upon her release at 9pm, the human rights defender was informed that the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an investigative body of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) forming part of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), would call her “soon” for a “deferred interview” in relation to the “ongoing investigation”.

This is not the first time that Ana Adlerstein has been detained and harassed when defending the rights of Central American immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers at the Mexico-US border in Arizona. In March 2019, she was detained for secondary interrogation for approximately 30 minutes alongside another migrant rights defender. They were both harassed and accused of “aiding and abetting human smuggling”.

The United States Customs and Border Protection routinely harasses human rights defenders and denies asylum seekers their right to request asylum. Human rights defenders working on the ground have reported instances of CBP officers physically assaulting asylum seekers at ports of entry, including attacks against unaccompanied minors, women, and persons identifying as queer. Such incidents usually involve armed officers forcefully pushing people off United States soil and threatening to request their arrest by Mexican police if they do not leave the border crossing.

Front Line Defenders is concerned about the detention, criminalisation and harassment of Ana Adlerstein, as it believes it to be motivated by her peaceful human rights work. Front Line Defenders also condemns the increased targeting of human rights defenders and organisations who assist migrants at the United States – Mexico border.