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‘I Think This Is Retaliation’ ~ Immigrant Rights Lawyer Denied Entry Into Mexico

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]n immigrant rights attorney born and raised in East L.A. who worked closely with members of a migrant caravan in Tijuana said she was one of two attorneys who were denied entry into Mexico after their passports were flagged with alert.

Nora Phillips has yet to receive an explanation — or, in fact, any information whatsoever — about the nature of the alert, but her is perhaps unsurprising in the Trump era.

Phillips said she was detained entry into Mexico by the country’s immigration authorities in Tijuana. She was eventually sent back to L.A.

The two attorneys who were denied entry into Mexico, Nora Phillips and Erika Pinheiro, are leaders of Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit group based in Los Angeles and Tijuana that has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. In 2017, the group filed a lawsuit accusing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency of unlawfully depriving asylum seekers access to the U.S. asylum process.

It remains unclear which government or governments (whether it was from the United States, Mexico or both) that issued the alert.

Al Otro Lado lawyers have been going to Tijuana to advise members of a Central American migrant caravan that arrived late last year at the Mexican border city.

ALERT!! Our Legal Director and Litigation Director have been REMOVED from Mexico. Apparently the US govt issued security alerts on our passports to prevent us from traveling. Our Legal Director is being returned on a flight that lands at LAX terminal 2 at 12:10. Please SHOW UP

— Al Otro Lado (@AlOtroLado_Org) February 1, 2019

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]ast year in December, Al Otro Lado partnered with Congressman Jimmy Gomez and Representative Nanette Barragan, both of the Los Angeles area, to escort a group of asylum seekers to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

They had questioned Customs and Border Protection officials after they were told the port would only process the eight unaccompanied children and the rest, including a mother with five children, would have to go to the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

Phillips, the legal and litigation director for Al Otro Lado, said she was detained Thursday evening after flying to Guadalajara for a planned vacation with her husband and 7-year-old daughter. She said Mexican immigration agents scanned her passport and told her it triggered “an alert,” according to multiple reports.

RELATED: Photo Gallery: Los Angeles Stands Up For TPS, Immigrants Rights

@AlOtroLado_Org Nora is back after being turned away from Mexico. @latimes

— Cindy Carcamo (@theCindyCarcamo) February 1, 2019

Phillips was separated from her daughter and husband and escorted into a separate room in which Mexican officials peppered her with questions, including about how much money she was carrying, whether she had weapons training, and whether she ever had been arrested or convicted of a crime.

Her daughter was standing just outside the room and started crying. She was allowed to join her mother while the pair were detained for nine hours and had to sleep on a cold floor without food or water.

Ultimately, they were turned away and placed on a flight back to Los Angeles. She arrived in L.A. Friday afternoon.

At a news conference upon her return at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, Phillips said Mexican officials insinuated that it wasn’t Mexico that had placed the alert. She believes the U.S. government is to blame, although she provided no evidence.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly accused immigration attorneys of coaching migrants to make false asylum claims. In 2017, then-Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions criticized what he called “dirty immigration lawyers who are encouraging their otherwise unlawfully present clients to make false claims of asylum.”

“I think this is retaliation,” Phillips said. “I think this is because we sued the U.S. government. I think it’s that we’re pointing out gross, flagrant human rights violations being committed by the U.S. government, and they don’t like that.”

RELATED: Not Messing Around: Sheriff Will ‘Physically Remove’ ICE From County Jails

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