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May 21, 2015

Congressional Support Building for Ending Immigration Detention

Today members of Congress held a press conference condemning the administration’s policy of holding mothers and children seeking asylum in immigration detention facilities. Seeking asylum in the United States is not a crime, and those who cross the border to do so should not be treated as criminals, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) emphasized.

“I think it’s important to note that when people show up at America’s borders and make a claim for asylum, they’re not breaking the law. That is in America’s immigration law,” Lofgren said. “It is immoral to keep mothers and children in jail while their cases are pending.”

Immigration detention traumatizes children and families and inhibits their access to legal assistance. Earlier this year a federal court ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot continue detaining asylum seekers simply to “send a message” to others who might come to the United States after fleeing persecution in their home countries. Another pending court case might find that family detention should be dismantled altogether because it violates standards for holding juveniles. The administration and the families’ representatives must reach an agreement by May 24 before the court makes a final ruling.

Popular opinion favors the use of alternatives to detention, according to a recent poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for Human Rights First. Key senators, as well as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, condemn the practice. So do the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Seattle Times editorial boards.

The Obama Administration should get on board with congressional leaders, policy experts, and the general public and stop the inhumane (and unnecessarily expensive) detention of mothers and children seeking asylum. Otherwise, Obama risks staining his legacy and violating international standards on human rights.

To watch the whole press conference, check out the video below.