Human Rights First Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Address Immigration System Resource Deficiency
Washington, D.C. – In a statement today submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Human Rights First urged Congress to address the resource imbalance at the southern 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, and comes as concerns are escalating over the increase in unaccompanied children at the U.S. – Mexico border. Human Rights First urges Congress to properly resource the asylum office and immigration courts to reduce backlogs and vulnerability to abuse, support legal presentations in more immigration detention facilities 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 challenges associated with the increase in unaccompanied children at the southern border are not the only ones facing the immigration system,” said Acer. “Included in this influx at the border are those fleeing persecution and seeking protection in the United States. The asylum and immigration systems have suffered for years now from a serious resource imbalance at the border: extraordinary resources have been 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. Congress should use today’s hearing to investigate a holistic approach to maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of the immigration system.”
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 resulted in recommendations found in Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Protect Refugees and Prevent Abuse at the Border” for addressing the increase in protection requests at the border through measures that protect refugees and strengthen the integrity and effectiveness of the system. Some recommendations include:
- 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 are determined to need additional supervision to support appearance;
- Address gaps in accurate information about the process and support expansion of legal presentations to all facilities within days of arrival;
- 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; and
- 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 an historic commitment to refugees and asylum seekers; it is a national imperative that we maintain the integrity of our immigration and asylum systems while safeguarding them from abuse,” said Acer. “While the public debates immigration reform, Congress should remember that America also has a strong interest in maintaining its global leadership in protecting the persecuted.”