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April 28, 2004

Asylum News 27

High-Level Refugee Protection Official Needed in Department of Homeland Security

Cameroonian Asylum Seeker Detained Ed.'s Note: “Newsletter 27 narrated the difficulties faced by a Cameroonian asylum seeker who was detained in the United States upon arrival and was denied parole despite the fact that he met all criteria for parole eligibility.  He has since been released from detention.” Background on Treatment of Asylum Seekers by DHS The immigration functions of the former INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003. At the time that the transfer occurred, Human Rights First and other organizations were concerned that the structure of the Department (which separates enforcement functions in separate bureaus from those with experience in refugee protection) would leave asylum seekers in a very vulnerable position. Despite much urging, the Department has still not made changes that would improve the treatment of refugees who are under the authority of the DHS enforcement bureaus (including CBP and ICE). For more information, see our webpage on the DHS. Earlier this year, Human Rights First issued a report on the problems faced by asylum seekers in DHS detention. That report, called In Liberty's Shadow: US Detention of Asylum Seekers in the Era of Homeland Security, details the lack of basic due process safeguards in the asylum detention system. It also addresses the changes in the treatment of detained asylum seekers since 9/11. The report calls on the Department of Homeland Security to:
  1. Create a new high-level refugee protection position in the Office of Secretary Tom Ridge.
  2. Give asylum seekers the chance to have their detention reviewed by an immigration judge, like other immigration detainees.
  3. Put the official parole criteria for asylum seekers into formal regulations.
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