The right of asylum is a long-standing juridical concept and human rights matter. In accordance with the Refugee Act of 1980, foreign nationals -whether they are at the border or already in the United States – can apply for asylum and the right to permanently live in the United States. American law clearly defines a refugee as an individual who is unable to live in their home country due to persecution or a fear of persecution that is connected to their race, nationality, religion, and/or political stance. Unfortunately, the legal asylum process has always been a complex and challenging procedure that often involves multiple government agencies.
The Trump Administration Detains Asylum Seekers
Since early 2017, President Trump has been targeting both legal and undocumented immigrants to rally his diminishing supporters and appeal to representatives of the Republican political party. His administration’s latest anti-immigration policy is to detain asylum seekers – including young children – in jail-like detention centers.
These immigration centers have been widely (if controversially) compared to concentration camps, and for good reason. Refugees are being detained for weeks beyond the legal limitations imposed by existing laws, and are being denied clean water, healthy food, soap, prescribed medications, and even safe places to sleep. There have been reports of abuse, sexual assault, starvation, dehydration, and even wrongful death incidents. In fact, Yazmin Juarez, a refugee from Guatemala, is currently suing the federal government for $60 million because her infant daughter died while in the care of negligent ICE medical practitioners.
On July 2, 2019, Acting Inspector General Jennifer L. Costello of the Department of Homeland Security completed and published a report after inspecting a facility in the Rio Grande Valley. In this report, she details how 223,263 adults and children have been apprehended by Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol units in the months spanning October 2018 to May 2019, a 124% increase from the previous year. She “encourages the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take immediate steps to alleviate the dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults.”
The Political Conundrum
Last June, Congress agreed to pass a $4.6 billion Senate Emergency Supplemental Appropriates bill to remedy the inhumane conditions in these facilities. Representatives, including Pramila Jayapal, was hoping that this funding bill would “put in guard rails to specify that children should get food, water, medical care and legal services; that no child should be kept in these facilities for more than 90 days; ad that private, for-profit contractors who violate these standards would have their contracts terminated.” Instead, this Republican-supported bill used the funds to build three new for-profit detention facilities, all of which lack critical supplies and humanitarian protections.
Seattle Federal Judge Blocks Trump from Denying Bond Hearings
In April 2019, Attorney General William Barr ordered ICE officials and immigration judges to detain asylum seekers until their immigration court hearings, a process that often lasts months or years. This policy also directs immigration judges to deny bail if a refugee has been approved for expedited removal proceedings. In his written decision, Barr declared, “I conclude that such aliens remain ineligible for bond, whether they are arriving at the border or are apprehended in the United States…[asylum seekers] must be detained until [their] removal proceedings conclude.”
Fortunately, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman reversed this directive and determined that it is unconstitutional to indefinitely detain refugees seeking asylum protections in the United States. Her judgement also protects a refugee’s legal right to a bond hearing in immigration court. She writes, “The Government’s unwillingness to unconditionally assert that Plaintiffs will not be re-detained means that the specter of re-detention looms and these Plaintiffs and many members of their class face the real and imminent threat of bondless and indefinite attention absent the release they seek.” Many human rights organizations and legal officials are celebrating this decision because it also prevents the Department of Homeland Security from falsely claiming that a refugee is entering the country illegally when they are seeking asylum.
Do You Need an Expert Immigration Lawyer? Call Guerra Sáenz, PL Today
Contact the immigration attorneys at Guerra Sáenz, PL if you or a loved one has been apprehended by ICE and detained in an immigration detention center. Our legal team is staffed by qualified lawyers who have personally experienced and successfully completed the legal immigration process. In fact, our lead attorney, Luis A. Guerra, is Board Certified in Immigration & Nationality Law by the Florida Board of Legal Specialization Education and is ranked as one of the best lawyers in the nation by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. You can trust our team to aggressively represent your interests and effectively guide you through each step of this complex legal process.
We have represented over 1,000 immigration cases before the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, and the Department of State. Call Guerra Sáenz, PL today at (888) 936-3228 schedule a consultation.