Human Rights First Urges House Committee to Address Immigration System Resource Deficiency
Washington, D.C. – In a statement today submitted to the House Judiciary Committee, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer urged Congress to address the resource imbalance at the border that is undermining the integrity of the immigration system and the protection of those fleeing persecution and torture. The hearing, “Oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” will feature testimony from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Human Rights First urges members of the committee to properly resource the asylum office and immigration courts to reduce backlogs and vulnerability to abuse, support legal presentations in more immigration detention facilities and within days of detention, and support the increased use of alternatives to detention for individuals who do not present a danger to the community.
“The immigration system at the border is imbalanced. There are extraordinary resources put in to the capacities to apprehend and detain, but too few resources allocated to the protection and adjudicatory components of the expedited and regular removal processes,” said Acer in her statement. “This resource imbalance has led to backlogs and delays that can undermine the integrity of these systems, increase costs at the tail end of the process, and leave asylum seekers in limbo for years.”
Eleanor Acer and Human Rights First researchers recently returned from a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they visited key border points, border patrol stations, immigration detention facilities, and asylum offices in Texas, Arizona, and California. The trips were designed to inform workable solutions that prevent fraud and abuses, protect security, and honor our nation’s commitment to refugee protection. The research informed recommendations for addressing the increase in protection requests at the border through measures that protect refugees and strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of the system. Next month, Human Rights First will release a detailed Blueprint with final recommendations from its research. Today, it previewed the following recommended steps:
- Properly resource asylum office and immigration courts to reduce backlogs and vulnerability to abuse;
- Increase capacity to use alternative to detention nationally for border arrivals released to other parts of the country who need additional supervision to support appearance;
- Address gaps in accurate information about the process and support expansion of legal presentations to all facilities;
- Effectively implement parole, bond, and alternatives to detention for individuals who meet the standards and do not present a danger to the community;
- Strengthen protection safeguards;
- Enhance tools for detecting and investigating abuse and criminal activity
During today’s hearing, Congress also has the opportunity to raise several key questions for Secretary Johnson, including how the administration plans to address the increase in protection requests on the southern border.
“This country has a strong interest in maintaining the integrity of its immigration and asylum systems and safeguarding them from abuse,” wrote Acer. “This interest is particularly crucial during a very public debate on immigration reform. America also has a strong interest in maintaining its global leadership in protecting the persecuted.”