November 12, 2007
New ICE Parole Directive for Asylum Seekers Reverses Prior Guidance
A new directive issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week is expected to make it more difficult for victims of persecution to receive parole from immigration jails in this country. As a result, many asylum seekers may remain in these immigration jails for longer periods of time. The directive was issued in the wake of years of criticism of U.S. immigration policies and practices relating to the detention of asylum seekers. The bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report in February 2005 recommending that ICE codify 1997 guidance on parole to ensure that it was followed by local immigration detention officials. Human Rights First and a diverse range of other groups also recommended that the guidance be put into regulations so that asylum seekers are not unnecessarily detained for lengthy periods of time. Instead, in a November 6, 2007 directive, ICE rescinded the prior guidelines which had generally favored release on parole in cases where asylum seekers satisfied critical criteria. These criteria included establishing identity, community ties and lack of danger to the community. Under the new directive, these same asylum seekers would have to meet an additional set of very narrow and/or undefined criteria. “Not only is this new directive inconsistent with the prior parole guidance,” said Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection program, “but it is also inconsistent with the recommendations of the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and with this country’s commitments to refugees under international refugee and human rights standards,” Acer added: “This country has jailed refugees and torture survivors from Burma, China, Colombia, Liberia and the Darfur region of Sudan and other places, for months or years, while their asylum cases are pending. Instead of addressing this problem, ICE has signaled that it will escalate this practice.” For more background on U.S. detention of asylum seekers, click here. To read the new ICE guidance, click here.