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Home / Press Release / Amicus Brief Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Safeguards to Limit Arbitrary, Prolonged Detention for Asylum Seekers
February 10, 2017

Amicus Brief Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Safeguards to Limit Arbitrary, Prolonged Detention for Asylum Seekers

New York City—Human Rights First today, along with the pro bono assistance of Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler LLP, filed a supplemental amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court ruling providing immigration court custody hearings for asylum seekers who have been held in immigration detention for six months or longer already. The case, Jennings v. Rodriguez, is on appeal from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  

“Throughout the past 20 years U.S. immigration authorities have exercised their parole authority inconsistently and arbitrarily, leaving asylum seekers in immigration detention for months or longer,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “For years pro bono attorneys representing asylum seekers in immigration detention have witnessed absurd, contradictory, and unjust decisions that run contrary to U.S. human rights and refugee protection treaty commitments. Asylum seekers—many of whom have fled brutal persecution and violence—should not be subject to arbitrary and unnecessary prolonged detention. This country should not hold asylum seekers in immigration detention facilities and jails without even having an immigration court consider the need for continued detention.”

Jennings v. Rodriguez is on appeal from the Ninth Circuit and will impact a significant number of asylum seekers and migrants who are denied access to immigration court bond hearings under current rules. The Supreme Court will review the Ninth Circuit’s finding that certain individuals in immigration detention, including “arriving” asylum seekers and certain other immigrants subject to mandatory detention, must be provided with an immigration court bond hearing after being held in U.S. detention facilities for six months.

The critical importance of the issues before the Supreme Court in this case have taken on even more urgency following the executive order signed on January 25th entitled, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” and recent statements made by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly  that appear to indicate a further increase in immigration detention which will undoubtedly lead to more unnecessary detention.

The order comes as immigration detention is already at an all-time high and asylum seekers are already being detained for months or more in jails and facilities that resemble prisons. In a series of reports issued in 2016, Human Rights First documented the sharp escalation in the detention of asylum seekers over the last few years (see: Lifeline on LockdownDetention of Asylum Seekers in New JerseyDetention of Asylum Seekers in Georgia).

Human Rights First filed an initial amicus brief in this same case on behalf of a group of amici who are experts in the field of international human rights law and refugee law, including former and current members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, and leading scholars on the application of international human rights law to asylum seekers and migrants. The amicus brief argued that U.S. international human rights obligations—including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)—require individualized assessments and court review of detention for asylum seekers and immigrants held in U.S. immigration detention.

“President Trump’s executive order relating to the border and the escalation of immigration detention raises grave concerns about the administration’s plans for asylum seekers, and whether those plans will comply with U.S. treaty obligations which prohibit arbitrary detention, limit the detention of asylum seekers, and require court assessments of the need for detention.” added Acer. 

For more information or to speak with Acer, contact Corinne Duffy at[email protected] or 202-370-3319.