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September 19, 2018

Sessions Move Another Attempt to Jail Refugee Families for Longer

New York City—Human Rights First today condemned Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to refer to himself a Board of Immigration Appeals decision in Matter of M-G-G-, a move that will likely lead to thousands of refugee families languishing indefinitely in detention. Sessions can now issue a ruling that would attempt to block individuals, including those seeking protection, from having an immigration judge assess their cases for potential release from detention.     

“The United States should not be the kind of country that locks families and refugees away in jails without even having a judge decide whether that detention is necessary,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “This has nothing to do with keeping America safe, but everything to do with punishing families who want nothing more than to escape persecution and violence. This is not who we are as a country.”  

Without bond hearings, asylum seekers are often held in detention for many months and sometimes years even though they meet the criteria for release. Human Rights First notes that these hearings are a basic due process check protected by the Constitution.    

In response to the Trump Administration’s expanded use of incarceration for refugee families, Human Rights First launched its Freedom for Detained Refugees Project, in which the organization is: partnering with law firms across the country to provide pro bono representation to detained asylum seekers; challenging the Trump Administration’s detention policies in court; and, pressing Congress to conduct oversight and protect refugee families from incarceration.   

Human Rights First notes that detention is a costly, inhumane and unnecessary waste of resources. The organization’s reporting shows that immigrants appear for their immigration court hearings at high rates, particularly when they have legal representation, case management support, and accurate information related to the court process. Families and children with legal counsel are in compliance nearly one hundred percent of the time. Data shows, for example, that 98 percent of children in immigration proceedings whose cases initiated in 2014 and who had obtained counsel were in full compliance with their court appearance obligations as of December 2017. 

Detention of children—even for short periods of time—leads to long-lasting negative mental and physical health outcomes. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that even a few days in immigration detention facilities is harmful to the health of children. Human Rights First documented in a series of reports the inadequate medical care of children in detention. 

“The Trump Administration’s plan to subject families seeking refugee protection to long term and indefinite detention is a humanitarian disaster in the making,” added Acer.

For more information or to speak with Acer contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.