Attorney General Decision Seeks to Jail Refugees Indefinitely

In response to Attorney General Barr’s decision attempting to strip refugees of bond hearings, thereby holding them in detention indefinitely, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer issued the following statement: 

This move is clearly another inhumane attempt by the Trump Administration to punish families and others seeking refuge through mass incarceration and due process cuts. With the stroke of his pen, the attorney general is trampling on both the Constitution and the rights of refugees.  

The American people have seen through the administration’s attempts to separate and detain parents and children fleeing violence and persecution; yet instead of reconsidering these punitive policies the attorney general is doubling down. This unilateral ruling aims to jail asylum seekers indefinitely, blocking them from the safeguard of an immigration court custody hearing. Make no mistake: this new policy is cruelty for the sake of cruelty.

The attorney general’s view that ICE’s parole authority suffices is simply ludicrous. ICE parole decisions are notoriously arbitrary, inconsistent, and unfair. The agency often refuses to release eligible asylum from detention, leaving many refugees locked up in U.S. immigration jails for months or years before they are granted asylum. Detention harms children, families, and other asylum seekers, as medical professionals have warned for years.     

Yesterday’s decision will deprive asylum seekers of an immigration court custody hearing that would determine whether they can be released from detention on bond. Instead, the attorney general is blocking immigration judges from making these decisions and instead giving Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the power to act as judge and jailer for these asylum seekers’ release determinations. 

Over the last year, the administration has made it increasingly difficult for asylum seekers to seek protection at official ports of entry by severely limiting the number allowed to seek refuge in the United States each day. By strangling access to the ports, the Department of Homeland Security is pushing asylum seekers stranded in danger in Mexico to attempt the dangerous journey between official border points. Yesterday’s decision would force those refugees into indefinite detention and deprive them of any meaningful assessment of the need for their continued detention.   

Human Rights First notes that ICE’s arbitrary and unfair parole decisions have been subject to lawsuits, including by Human Rights First, the ACLU, and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. Protection against detention without a court’s review are basic tenets of due process and U.S. treaty prohibitions against arbitrary detentions.     

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