New Detention Facility for Immigrants Harmful to Children and Families

New York City – Human Rights First said that a decision announced this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to open a new 2,400-bed detention facility for immigrant families and children in Dilley, Texas is inconsistent with American ideals and harmful to children and their families.

“Many of these women and children are currently fleeing violence and persecution in Central America and may be eligible for asylum under U.S. immigration law. Rather than creating new detention facilities to hold them, the administration should be putting its efforts into ensuring that asylum seekers are not improperly denied access to protection,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “There are already proven and cost-effective alternative monitoring measures for cases where additional support is necessary to assure appearance at subsequent removal hearings; the facility in Dilley is unnecessary as well as inconsistent with this country’s human rights commitments.”

Rather than detain mothers and children in new detention facilities, the U.S. government should take the following steps:

  • Use alternatives to detention in cases where, based on an assessment of the asylum seeker’s individual circumstances, additional measures are needed to assure a family appears for removal hearings.
  • Abandon the new approach of opposing release from detention for families, and stop setting no bond or bond amounts at unfairly  high levels.
  • Facilitate access to counsel by releasing mothers and children from immigration detention, including on alternative monitoring measures where necessary, as those who are held in detention are much less likely to secure the legal counsel necessary to gather evidence and prove asylum eligibility.
  • Refrain from detaining families in locations that are hours from cities where there are significant numbers of potential pro bono attorneys.
  • Take steps to ensure asylum seekers are not improperly denied access to asylum due to new approach to credible fear screening, including conducting additional training for asylum officers and revising flaws in credible fear screening guidance.

“The United States has a long history of protecting refugees, and should be a beacon to the rest of the world,” said Acer. “This new facility and the broader policy of family detention sets a bad example.”

Blueprint: How to Protect Refugees and Prevent Abuse at the Border
Report: How to Manage the Increase in Families and Protection Requests at the Border
Fact Sheet: Key Statistics and Findings on Asylum Protection Requests at the U.S. – Mexico Border

Press

Published on September 24, 2014

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