Human Rights First Launches Freedom for Detained Refugees Project
Campaign Combines Representation, Litigation, and Advocacy to End the Detention of People Seeking Protection
New York City—As the Trump Administration ramps up its efforts to lock up individuals fleeing violence and persecution, Human Rights First today launched the Freedom for Detained Refugees Project, a three-pronged initiative to combat the imprisonment of refugees in the United States.
Through the Freedom for Detained Refugees 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.
“The goal of the Freedom for Detained Refugees Project is simple: to end the detention of the courageous men, women, and children, who seek to live in safety in the United States. Those brave enough to flee their homes and seek safety for themselves and their families in America are following in the footsteps of the generations of refugees that have made this country great,” said Human Rights First’s Sharon Kelly McBride. “Because Americans stood up against the Trump Administration’s unconscionable decision to rip children away from their parents, the president was forced to reverse course. But the solution to the policy of family separation is not family incarceration. Children do not belong in jail. We’re taking on the Trump Administration to ensure that people fleeing for their lives are not left to languish behind bars.”
Representation. Human Rights First will partner with law firms and non-profits across the country to provide free, full-scale representation of asylum seekers in three detention facilities—the Adelanto Detention Center in Southern California, the Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey, and the Berks County Residential Facility in Pennsylvania, one of only three family detention facilities in the United States.
Litigation. Human Rights First, in partnership with American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, and Covington & Burling LLP, has challenged the Trump Administration’s denial of parole for those seeking protection. Earlier this month a federal court blocked the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and ordered a case-by-case review of whether each asylum seeker in the class-action lawsuit should be released on humanitarian parole. Human Rights First continues that fight.
Advocacy. Human Rights First is also leading an effort to demand congressional oversight and pressure policymakers to change laws to protect asylum seekers from incarceration. Congress hasn’t held a single hearing on the Trump Administration taking children from their parents at the border. When the government can’t keep track of children it has taken into custody, and reports of abuses at detention facilities grow more troubling by the day, oversight is urgently needed.
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 family detention both undermines the rights and harms the health of women and children. 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.