For Immediate Release: December 16, 2009
(Washington DC December 16, 2009) New parole guidance announced today by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a strong first step in addressing the flawed U.S. policies that have led to the extended detention of asylum seekers in the United States.
“Each year, thousands of asylum seekers are detained often for months and sometimes for years after requesting this country’s protection from persecution,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “The new parole guidance is a welcome shift from the prior policy and requires ICE to assess each asylum seeker for the possibility of parole.
Under U.S. immigration law, arriving asylum seekers are initially subject to mandatory detention. The new parole guidance issued by ICE requires that arriving asylum seekers who pass through the “credible fear” screening process be assessed for release by ICE, and allows for the release of those who can establish their identity, do not present a flight risk or danger to the community.
As detailed in Human Rights First’s April 2009 report, U.S. Detention of Asylum Seekers: Seeking Protection, Finding Prison, many asylum seekers are detained for many months and sometimes years in prison like facilities and ICE has spent over $300 million to detain asylum seekers over the past six years. Human Rights First recommended that DHS revise its parole policies and put them into regulations; and that asylum seekers be given access to immigration court custody hearings a safeguard provided to other immigrant detainees.
“While the new guidance is an important step, additional reforms are necessary to ensure that asylum seekers are not jailed for extended periods of time,” Acer stressed. “Asylum seekers should be given access to immigration court custody hearings. The lack of prompt court review of their detention is inconsistent with this country’s commitments under human rights conventions.” Two bills pending in the Senate