Asylum News 59
Update: Detention – ICE Issues new Guidance on Parole of Asylum Seekers On November 6, 2007, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a new directive relating to the parole of “arriving” asylum seekers who have passed through the expedited removal/credible fear process. The directive recasts the longstanding parole criteria for asylum seekers (that their identities are established, that they have community ties/lack of flight risk and that present no risk of harm to the community), as threshold criteria. Asylum seekers who satisfy the threshold criteria will then need to establish that their parole is in the “public interest,” or that they are eligible for release due to pregnancy, medical issues, juvenile status or service as a witness. The guidance requires local officers to document their decision and calls for a quality assurance process, but does not provide guidance on the term “public interest.” Human Rights First wrote to ICE expressing its concern about the shift in the parole policy – from one that provided that parole “should be considered” for those who met the longstanding criteria, to a policy that indicates that parole “may be considered” and adds a second level of inquiry. A copy of the new directive is linked to below. Those who represent asylum seekers should review the guidance closely, and are urged to file parole applications if their clients satisfy the criteria. While the guidelines provide no explanation of when parole is in the “public interest,” attorneys are urged to make all arguments that weigh in favor of an individual asylum seeker’s release. ICE will be tracking parole requests and denials – so it will be important to file requests even with local ICE offices that have traditionally denied deserving parole requests. While the guidance will unfortunately leave local officers free to continue to detain asylum seekers who present no risk and satisfy the other criteria, practitioners should cite to the directive as new ICE policy that confirms that asylum seekers who meet the specified criteria may be released on parole. Read the New ICE Parole Policy for Asylum Seekers Read HRF Letter to ICE on Concerns about Shift in US Detention Policy Read HRF Statement on New Detention Policy Read Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Statement on New Detention Policy Former Detainee Awarded Damages in Court A federal jury in New Jersey awarded damages to a former Somali asylum seeker, who is now a U.S. citizen, in connection with her 11-month detention at the infamous detention center run by the former Esmor Corp. in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The jury concluded that Esmor (now part of the Geo Group Inc.) and some of its former executives should pay the woman $100,000 for negligent hiring and training and $1 for violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The former Esmor facility was closed after a riot in 1995. A subsequent INS investigation into the facility identified a range of serious problems at the facility. Professor Penny Venetis of Rutgers University filed the lawsuit. To read the Newark Star-Ledger article (11/14/2007), click here. Former Detainee Awarded Damages in Court The fiscal year for U.S. refugee resettlement ended on September 30, 2007. In early October, the U.S. announced that it had resettled 1608 Iraqi refugees over the prior twelve months. The number is far below the 7000 goal announced by the U.S. earlier in the year. The Departments of Homeland Security and State announced a modest resettlement goal of 12,000 Iraqi refugees for the next 12 months. Over 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes. Syria also announced that it would require Iraqis to have visas to enter their country. The vast majority of Iraqi refugees no longer have any way to flee from Iraq. Read: Syria Shuts Main Exit From War for Iraqis, The New York Times – 10/21/2007 Human Rights First is working to secure a comprehensive response to the Iraqi refugee crisis. For more information about the issue and HRF’s Lifeline for Iraqi Refugees Project, click here. EOIR Announces Plan to Expand Pro Bono Program On November 15, 2007, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) announced plans to implement recommendations by its pro bono committee following a 2006 directive from former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The announcement said that the committee, consisting of immigration judges, court administrators, and legal staff, had reached out to various agencies and the non-profit community to develop a number of suggestions aimed at expanding pro bono efforts in the immigration court. EOIR stated in the announcement that it intends to: provide clear guidance to immigration judges and court staff on promoting and facilitating pro bono representation; expand the legal orientation program and the BIA pro bono project; designate local pro bono liaison judges to facilitate pro bono representation; offer pro bono representatives priority scheduling as appropriate; and encouraging pre-trial conferences in pro bono cases. To read the EOIR announcement, click here. To read the May 2006 recommendations sent to EOIR by Human Rights First and other organizations, click here. Universal Children’s Day On November 20th, 2007, the International Detention Coalition and some of its U.S. members marked Universal Children’s Day by urging governments and policy makers to end the detention of immigrant children. A coalition of groups issued a statement outlining steps for the U.S. government to take to protect the rights of migrant children. To learn more, click here.