Through Representation, Litigation, and Advocacy, Human Rights First is Fighting to End Detention

By Molly McCullen

Human Rights First has been at the forefront of the fight to end immigration detention for more than a decade. Through our research and work providing legal representation to asylum seekers across the United States, we’ve witnessed first-hand the damage that detention inflicts on men, women, and children who flee their homes in search of safety.

We first pressed the Obama Administration to end family detention, and today we’re continuing that fight through our newly launched Freedom for Detained Refugees Project. Through representation, litigation, and advocacy, we are challenging the Trump Administration’s attempts to treat refugees like criminals, and working to put an end to detention, once and for all.


We are partnering with law firms across the country to provide pro bono legal representation to detained asylum seekers. Multiple studies show that asylum seekers with access to legal assistance are approximately 40% more likely to win their cases. Representation is integral to ensuring that all detained asylum seekers have the chance for their cases to be heard, and that they are able to present their claims fairly and effectively.


We are challenging the Trump Administration’s cruel detention policies in court. In a joint lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Refugee and Gener Studies, and Covington & Burling LLP, Human Rights First is challenging the administration’s denial of parole for asylum seekers.


Lastly, we are continuing to press Congress to conduct desperately needed oversight and protect refugee families from incarceration. Shockingly, there hasn’t been a single hearing about Trump’s family separation policy, despite the fact that there are still hundreds of children left in limbo by this manufactured crisis. We will fight to make sure that proper oversight is undertaken to locate separated families and address accusations of abuse in detention centers.

We know that family detention is not a viable solution; it’s expensive, inhumane, and it’s wholly unnecessary. There are a variety of family monitoring programs that have proven successful, including the Family Case Management Program that was run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) itself.

The Family Case Management Program supported asylum seekers in navigating the complicated bureaucracy that is required to attend check-ins and court dates. The program allowed asylum seekers to connect with social support and legal representation, and helped refugees access affordable housing, healthcare, and schooling for their children. ICE reported that approximately 99.6% of the program’s participants successfully attended both check ins and court appearances.

Unfortunately, President Trump decided to put an end to the program last year. Clearly, the Trump Administration is actively ignoring viable solutions in favor of indefinite family incarceration.

Waiting for an immigration hearing can take months, and even years. Why would we subject asylum seekers to live in cages indefinitely, when other effective and humane programs exist? The Trump Administration is doing anything it can to punish refugees for requesting their legal right to asylum.

Help us fight against the detention of refugees by signing our petition.


Published on July 23, 2018


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