World Refugee Day - June 20, 2004:
Urge Department of Homeland Security to Release Pastor's Wife and Make Needed Changes to Detention System
Urge Secretary Ridge to Release Mrs. E and Ensure Fair Policies for Asylum Seekers!
Pastor's Wife Detained for Months
Mrs. E, a pastor's wife and the mother of young children, fled persecution in Togo and was detained by U.S. immigration officials in February 2004. Mrs. E and her husband had been attacked by government soldiers in their home and in their church because her husband preached and prayed for change in Togo. Mrs. E., who had been raped by soldiers when she was just 16 years old, was unable to endure these ongoing attacks by the military. She fled to the United States to save her life.
When she arrived at JFK Airport in February 2004, she was detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which determined that she had not left on time during a prior visit to the U.S. She was taken in handcuffs to a detention facility in Queens, New York, her clothes and possessions taken from her, and she was given a blue prison uniform to wear. The Department of Homeland Security denied her request for release on parole even though she has several close family members and U.S. citizen friends in this country. Mrs. E has now been detained in prison-like conditions for about four months.
World Refugee Day Is June 20, 2004
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has declared that the theme of this year's World Refugee Day is "A place to call home: Rebuilding lives in safety and dignity." In the United States, thousands of asylum seekers are held for months and even years in jails and detention centers after asking for protection at our airports and borders. To improve the treatment of asylum seekers, we urge the Department of Homeland Security to make these changes:
(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.
Background on Treatment of Asylum Seekers by 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. For example, since 9/11, U.S. immigration authorities have become increasingly reluctant to release asylum seekers on parole even if they present no security threat. The result is that refugees, who have come to the United States seeking asylum are treated like criminals and often held in jails and detention centers for months and even years.
To read the full report, please go to:
Visit our website.
Urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release Mrs. E from jail by sending a letter to DHS asking for her release. You can also help others like her gain access to a fairer release process by urging DHS Secretary Tom Ridge to create a high-level refugee protection position and make the other changes recommended above.
To learn more about World Refugee Day and activities taking place in your area, visit: www.unhcr.ch
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