For Immediate Release: February 8, 2007
Washington — The bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a “report card” Feb. 7 giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) an “F” grade for its failure to implement several reforms the commission had recommended two years ago to protect asylum seekers from improper detention in U.S. immigration jails.
USCIRF found that refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. are detained in prison-like facilities that were inappropriate for them, and that release decisions around the country appeared to be arbitrary. USCIRF had recommended that DHS put the parole criteria for asylum seekers into regulations and that asylum seekers no longer be detained in such facilities.
“After two years of reviewing the Commission’s findings, the Department of Homeland Security has failed to implement crucial reforms to ensure that asylum seekers are not needlessly jailed in this country,” said Eleanor Acer, director of the refugee protection program at Human Rights First. “Meanwhile, asylum seekers in search of refuge from persecution continue to be jailed for months and sometimes years.”
The group said it welcomed a plan by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) to advance legislation that would improve the treatment of asylum seekers who are detained in this country.
“Jailing asylum seekers in prison conditions flies in the face of America’s traditional role as a safe haven for those fleeing oppression, religious persecution, and torture,” Acer said. “Senator Lieberman’s planned bill would ensure that people fleeing persecution are treated in accordance with this nation’s most basic values.”
Human Rights First urged DHS to put the criteria for paroling asylum seekers into regulations and to make other reforms to ensure that asylum seekers are not jailed unnecessarily. A diverse range of groups has urged DHS to implement USCIRF’s recommendations.
Click here for the USCIRF report card documenting the progress of DHS and the Department of Justice in implementing these and other recommendations.
Click here to read letters to DHS from diverse group of organizations and read Human Rights First’s report, “In Liberty’s Shadow,” on the detention of asylum seekers.