Friday, April 19, 2013
As Congress considers legislation to reform the U.S. immigration system, a new U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report, Assessing the U.S. Government’s Detention of Asylum Seekers: Further Action Needed to Fully Implement Reforms, finds that the U.S. government continues to detain asylum seekers under inappropriate conditions in jails and jail-like facilities. This detention is contrary to both longstanding USCIRF recommendations and reforms the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in 2009.
Between July and December 2012, USCIRF staff toured 10 detention facilities nationwide and met with officials and asylum seekers. The goal was to assess progress DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) had made on reforms that, if fully implemented, would realize USCIRF recommendations on the detention of asylum seekers. In October 2009, ICE had announced plans to develop a new immigration detention system, with facilities based on civil, not penal, models in locations with access to legal services, emergency rooms, and transportation. “
USCIRF continues to recommend that ICE codify into regulations its 2009 parole process and criteria guidelines under which most asylum seekers found to have a credible fear of persecution are paroled rather than detained. USCIRF also finds that further improvements are needed to expand immigration detainees’ access to legal information, representation, and in-person hearings.