Administration Should Abandon Texas Family Detention Center Plan

New York City – Human Rights First today said that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to move forward with a new family immigration facility in Dilley, Texas is a continuation of misguided policies that undermine U.S. global leadership in protecting refugees.  The facility, slated to open in December, will house up to 2,400 individuals, some of whom may be transferred from the makeshift Artesia, New Mexico facility.

“The Obama Administration’s decision to put women and children fleeing persecution and violence into immigration detention was a mistake. Now, the administration is compounding that mistake by opening a new mega-facility to detain more families with children.  Many of these women and children are eligible for asylum or other protection under U.S. law.  The detention of families seeking asylum is inconsistent with American ideals and harmful to children and their families,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Instead of constructing new facilities to hold women and children, the Obama Administration should use effective and cost-efficient alternative monitoring measures, like case management, for cases where additional support is necessary to assure appearance at subsequent removal hearings.”

In its statement this morning, an official from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that the Dilley facility is designed to deter individuals “from taking the dangerous journey and illegally crossing into the United States.” Human Rights First urges the administration to abandon its flawed attempts to use immigration detention and interception practices that are inconsistent with international human rights standards to try to deter women and children from seeking the protection of the United States.  This approach is inconsistent with U.S. human rights and refugee protection commitments.

Rather than detain mothers and children in new detention facilities, the U.S. government should take the following steps:

  • Use alternatives to detention in cases where, based on an assessment of the asylum seeker’s individual circumstances, additional measures are needed to assure a family appears for removal hearings.
  • Abandon the approach – inspired by former Attorney General John Ashcroft – of opposing release from detention on bond, and stop setting no bond or bond amounts at unfairly  high levels.
  • Facilitate access to counsel by releasing mothers and children from immigration detention, including on alternative monitoring measures where necessary, as those who are held in detention are much less likely to secure the legal counsel necessary to gather evidence and prove asylum eligibility.
  • Refrain from detaining families in locations that are hours from cities where there are significant numbers of potential pro bono attorneys.
  • Take steps to ensure asylum seekers are not improperly denied access to asylum due to new approach to credible fear screening, including conducting additional training for asylum officers and revising flaws in credible fear screening guidance.

“The continued use of family detention is out of step with the United States’ leadership in protecting those fleeing persecution, trafficking, and other serious human rights violations,” said Acer. “The United States should set a better example for the rest of the world.”


Published on November 18, 2014


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