President’s Immigration Plan Underscores Need for Refugee Protections

New York City – In the wake of President Obama’s announcement of executive actions to defer deportation of up to 5 million immigrants, Human Rights First called on the administration to take steps to improve its treatment of mothers and children seeing asylum in this country.

“The president’s executive action could bring millions of immigrants out of the shadows, affording them access to basic rights and allowing families to stay together. But there is much more that should be done to protect other vulnerable immigrants – including mothers and children who have been held in immigration detention after requesting this country’s protection.” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “As more details emerge about the president’s plans for the border and the immigration courts, we urge the administration to inject strong mechanisms into its activities to ensure better protection of asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, and individuals at risk of trafficking.”

Human Rights First recommends that the administration take the following steps to strengthen the immigration and asylum system:

  • End the detention of families with children, and abandon the policy of automatically opposing requests from mothers and children for release on bond;
  • Use case management and other effective and cost-efficient alternative appearance support mechanisms rather than detention for asylum seekers including families with children;
  • Take additional steps to support access to legal representation and address the “rocket dockets” that undermine due process for children and families;
  • Prioritize full funding for immigration courts and asylum offices, so all cases – not only those from the border – receive a hearing or interview in a timely manner, rather than waiting years;
  • Until delays in non-border cases are eliminated, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) should set up, and USCIS should be encouraged to continue, a process to allow prompt decisions in cases of urgent humanitarian need, including those where children/spouses are stranded in dangerous/difficult situations abroad; and
  • Strengthen measures for identifying and protecting asylum seekers and those at risk of trafficking in all border processes.

Last night’s presidential address comes days after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its decision to move forward in December with a new detention facility to hold families with children in Dilley, Texas. The facility will house up to 2,400 individuals, some of whom may be transferred from the makeshift Artesia, New Mexico facility. Human Rights First has noted that this is a continuation of misguided policies that undermine U.S. global leadership in protecting refugees. In a letter this week signed by Human Rights First and dozens of non-profit, faith-based, human rights, legal service, immigration bar association, refugee assistance, and domestic violence organizations and legal professors, the president was urged to adopt reform policies to protect the persecuted and the rule of law.


Published on November 21, 2014


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