Human Rights First Files Amicus in Jennings v. Rodriguez, Urging Courts to Protect Due Process for Detainees
New York City—Human Rights First today filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Jennings v. Rodriguez, a case arguing that those seeking protection in the United States must receive a bond hearing after languishing in detention centers for six months. The amicus comes as the Trump Administration ramps up its long-term detention of refugees, including women and children, as part of its overall attack on the asylum system. The brief was prepared by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP.
“We urge the Ninth Circuit to protect the due process rights of thousands of detained asylum seekers and other migrants, who remain detained for months or even years despite meeting the government’s criteria on parole or bond,” said Human Rights First’s Hardy Vieux. “Detention not only deprives asylum seekers of their liberty, but also limits their access to counsel and has devastating effects on their mental and physical health.”
While the government claims that the existence of parole serves as a constitutional safeguard against arbitrary detention, the amicus brief filed today argues that the Trump Administration has exercised its parole authority arbitrarily and inconsistently, and has taken a number of steps to restrict the use of parole altogether. It has instead signaled its desire to detain asylum seekers for the duration of their proceedings, regardless of their eligibility for release. Simply because parole exists does not mean that it is being granted.
Additionally, prolonged detention harms the mental and physical health of those seeking protection, some of whom have endured trauma from violence and persecution in their home countries. Many asylum seekers are unable to access the medical or mental health care they require while in detention. As a result, detained asylum seekers may give up on meritorious claims for protection in order to leave detention, or may struggle to meaningfully participate in their legal proceedings.
Earlier this month, in response to the Trump Administration’s efforts to lock up individuals fleeing violence and persecution, Human Rights First launched the Freedom for Detained Refugees Project, a three-pronged initiative to combat the imprisonment of refugees in the United States. Through this project, Human Rights First will: partner with law firms across the country to provide pro bono representation to detained asylum seekers; challenge the Trump Administration’s detention policies in court; and, press Congress to conduct oversight and protect refugee families from incarceration.
For nearly a decade Human Rights First has been at the forefront of the effort to end immigration detention that violates human rights law, providing representation to over one thousand detained asylum seekers. Drawing on interviews and observations from dozens of visits to detention facilities, the organization has produced a series of reports showing how adult and family detention both undermines the rights and harms the health of detainees. Working in coalitions with legal and religious groups, immigrants’ rights organizations, pediatricians, health professionals, and members of Congress, the organization first pressed the Obama Administration and now continues to urge the Trump Administration to scrap family detention in favor of humane, proven, and cost-effective alternative appearance programs.