Immigration and Customs Enforcement Records Received Through FOIA Confirm Need for Increased Oversight of Agency’s Arbitrary and Unfair Parole Decisions for Asylum Seekers
Records received by Human Rights First from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show that the agency systematically and arbitrarily failed to release detained asylum seekers on parole and set other outrageous conditions for release. The Biden administration should act swiftly to create independent oversight of ICE parole decisions nationally to ensure that eligible asylum seekers are released from detention on parole without unfair requirements that are not necessary to secure their appearance in court for asylum hearings.
Under the 2009 Parole Directive, detained asylum seekers who have passed a credible fear interview (CFI) (meaning an asylum officer has determined their fear of persecution is credible and that they have a significant possibility of receiving full asylum) should be granted parole in the “public interest” and released from detention during the pendency of their asylum claims, if they establish their identity and demonstrate they are not a flight or security risk.
Thousands of Asylum Seekers Denied Release from Detention on Parole
However, the government records received by Human Rights First through FOIA show that between 2017 and 2018 ICE denied parole to over 6,000 asylum seekers who had passed a CFI. The parole grant rate in 2017 was just 47.7 percent and rose only slightly in 2018 to 60 percent. By way of contrast, the parole grant rate nationally was 80.6 percent in early 2011 – based on records ICE accidentally included in its disclosure of the 2017 and 2018 parole logs. Similarly, between 2011 and 2013, the Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia ICE Field Offices (which have jurisdiction over multiple ICE detention centers) granted parole to more than 92 percent of arriving asylum seekers who passed a CFI.
Whether an asylum seeker is released on parole depends heavily on where in the country the person is detained – with some ICE field offices denying parole in nearly all cases (see Table 1). For instance, in 2017, the El Paso Field Office granted parole to just 0.3 percent of adult asylum seekers who had passed a CFI and the New Orleans Field Office found only 1.6 percent of asylum seekers eligible for parole in 2018. Asylum seekers detained under the authority of the Dallas Field Office were far more likely to be released on parole with more than 98 percent of requests approved in 2018.