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October 15, 2003

Asylum News 19

New DHS Initiatives Impact Asylum Seekers and Detention Human Rights First Releases Report on US Law and Security

Take Action Now! A series of recent Department of Homeland Security initiatives relating to detention and asylum seekers have sparked questions around the country. These initiatives include a new “pilot” detention program in Connecticut, the use of electronic monitoring devises in Florida, and a DHS request for contractors to conduct intensive supervised release projects in 8 cities. In addition, as described below, Human Rights First has recently released a report on US Law and Security policies. A link to the new report appears at the end of this newsletter. Asylum Seekers in Connecticut Detained Under New Pilot Program The New York Times and Associated Press reported last month that the Department of Homeland Security and its interior enforcement arm, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as “ICE”), had initiated a pilot program in Connecticut to detain asylum seekers and other immigrants who were not already detained. The pilot program began in August with no notification to the public. The program, which was reported to be underway in Hartford, Connecticut, was scheduled to terminate on September 30, 2003. Under the pilot program, non-citizens who were denied asylum or other relief entitling them to stay in the country by an immigration judge could be immediately taken into DHS/ICE custody and detained until deported. If not for this pilot program, asylum seekers and other non-citizens would remain free while pursuing appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals and potentially the Federal Court of Appeals. The decision to detain is made by an ICE official in Hartford, and though there may be some extreme circumstances that would weigh against detaining an individual, those criteria have not been made public. Some of the people who are being detained may be eligible for release on payment of a bond, although many asylum seekers and others cannot afford to pay the extraordinarily high bond amounts that have reportedly been required for release. Among those detained under this program are asylum seekers who are in removal proceedings after having voluntarily identified themselves to U.S. immigration authorities (now DHS’s BCIS) by applying for asylum. Penalizing this group for detention is counterproductive. Asylum seekers should not be discouraged from coming forward to seek protection and those who have voluntarily come forward should not be penalized by being detained. DHS and ICE have not released public information indicating whether they plan to expand this “pilot program.” Ankle Bracelets for Asylum Seekers in Florida – Alternative to Detention or Alternative to Parole? In August, the Department of Homeland Security/ICE initiated a program in Miami, Florida through which asylum seekers were released from detention but subject to electronic monitoring devices (EMDs). The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center and Human Rights First wrote to DHS Secretary Ridge to express concern about the use of these devices as a substitute for the parole of asylum seekers without such intrusive monitoring. The groups noted that the devices could be useful in allowing for the release of individuals who would otherwise be detained. Asylum seekers subject to the Miami program are not permitted to leave their homes for more than five hours, hampering their ability to meet with lawyers or to attend to medical or family matters. In one case, ICE authorities believed an asylum seeker had violated the requirements of the program when he left his home to appear for his immigration court hearing at the Krome Service Processing Center. DHS Requests Proposals from Contractors To Run Intensive Supervised Release Projects in 8 Cities Over the past several months the Department of Homeland Security/Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has been soliciting proposals from contractors for a new alternative to detention program called the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP). ISAP is slated to be implemented by DHS in 2004 in 8 cities, and program participants are to include “up to 200 immigrant adult asylum seekers, non-criminal aliens, and aliens on an Order of Supervision who would otherwise be held in secure custody and who are required by law to be held in the legal custody of the DHS.” According to DHS materials:
  • The program will target adult illegal immigrants that would otherwise be held in secure custody but can show they are not at risk of violent behavior and/or absconding, and have family or other appropriate sponsorship to guarantee their release.
  • ISAP is designed to insure attendance at immigration hearings and will provide “highly structured and closely supervised” Orders of Supervision for 200 participants per year at each of the following designated sites: Baltimore, Denver, Kansas City (MO), Miami, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, and St. Paul.
  • The program will include frequent reporting, home visits, and monitoring of daily activities through electronic monitoring devices.
Non-governmental organizations have a range of concerns about the ISAP program, including its call for the use of electronic monitoring devises for some participants. Advocacy organizations are also concerned that the program may be applied to immigrants who would otherwise be released from detention without supervision, instead of to detainees who would not otherwise be released. In response to these concerns, DHS has stated that it “does not intend to utilize the ISAP to ‘widen the net’ for persons that would normally be released anyway. It is designed to improve appearance rates at immigration hearings for those persons that would otherwise be held in secure detention.” With respect to the choice of the eight sites, DHS materials state that “The process was part of an internal management review of offices to determine the viability of the program in the field.” The DHS materials released regarding ISAP do not explain why New York and New Jersey were excluded from ISAP – particularly as these areas include two of the largest detention centers for asylum seekers in the US, the 200-bed Wackenhut facility in Queens, New York and the 300-bed CCA facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Take Action! Urge the Department of Homeland Security to improve policies and practices on detention and parole of asylum seekers. Human Rights First Issues New Report on US Law and Security Policy The attached new report by Human Rights First, “Assessing the New Normal,” examines changes to U.S. law and security policy in five areas: government openness; personal privacy; immigration; security-related detention; and the effect of U.S. actions on international human rights standards. The report concludes that while certain changes in law and policy have been sensible and constructive, many others threaten basic rights and freedoms, and taken together reflect a significant departure from rule of law principles. The report highlights how what it terms the “new normal” has meant a diminution of legal safeguards, a breakdown of the system of checks and balances (in particular, judicial oversight of executive branch decisions), and a reduction in government openness and accountability. Each chapter contains a set of policy recommendations—including calls for increased congressional oversight, rolling back certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, and close scrutiny of additional measures being proposed by the President and Attorney General John Ashcroft. http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/our-work/law-and-security/right-to-remedy/loss/assessing/assessingnewnormal.htm More information on Asylum in the U.S. Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues. If you are not subscribed, and would like to continue receiving Asylum Protection News, sign up here