In Wake of All-Time High Detention Rates, Human Rights First Urges Administration to Abandon Family Detention

Washington, D.C.In response to reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects the number of individuals held in immigration detention to balloon to 45,000 in coming weeks—breaking all historic highs—Human Rights First today urged the Obama Administration to immediately abandon its policy of detaining families and asylum seekers. Earlier this month Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that the number of individuals held in detention exceeds 42,000.

“The Obama Administration’s policy of detaining men, women, and children, many of whom are seeking protection from violence and persecution, has spun completely out of control,” said Human Rights First’s Olga Byrne. “This policy is costly, inhumane, unnecessary, and a violation of international human rights and refugee protection laws that allow for detention only for a short period of time and in limited circumstances.”

It was also reported that DHS has asked for emergency funds to keep the program afloat until mid-December. The news comes as the DHS Advisory Committee finalizes recommendations that call on the administration to stop detaining children and their families, and to cease placing asylum seeking families in expedited removal proceedings.

Human Rights First notes that much of the increase in detention is due to the administration’s policy of detaining—and often not releasing—asylum seekers. Earlier this year Human Rights First released an analysis finding that asylum seekers and immigrants detained in Georgia are often held for long periods of time and face a near-moratorium on parole, despite a national directive from ICE setting out clear criteria for release. Human Rights First also issued a report earlier this summer finding that other ICE field offices similarly disregard a 2009 asylum parole directive, which was issued by the Obama Administration, and have taken the position that asylum seekers are a top enforcement priority under Secretary Johnson’s November 2014 memorandum, extending detention for many months even when asylum seekers meet the relevant parole or release criteria.

A broad array of voices have called on the administration to end the practice of detaining families, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Bar Association, Catholic and Lutheran Bishops, and 178 members of Congress and 35 senators.


Published on October 21, 2016


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