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  • DHS Announcement on Family Detention- Still Not in Compliance with U.S. Law

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    If implemented meaningfully, the announcement signals a recognition that families should only be held in detention for a short time. Women’s Refugee Commission remains concerned that the announcement does not go far enough. The administration must do more to comply with international and domestic protection obligations. The Women’s Refugee Commission asserts that the Administration should end family detention now and ensure children and their parents are never held in prison-like facilities.

    “While the DHS announcement demonstrates greater recognition of the flaws in the family detention system, the U.S. continues to violate our laws by incarcerating children in family detention centers.  The announcement still envisions a system where women and children are incarcerated and must pay bonds to be released even after demonstrating a fear of persecution in their home countries, said Michelle Brané, Director of the Migrant Rights & Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.

    The proposed reforms fail to recognize that seeking asylum in the U.S. is legal and an international right to ensure that innocent people are not deported to their countries of origin to be killed or harmed.

     “Asking for protection is not illegal,” Brané continued. Many of the children and families fleeing violence and arriving at our borders  have family in the United States. Rather than reuniting them, DHS is spending hundreds of millions of dollars detaining them in costly and inhumane facilities. There is no reason for them to remain in jail.”

    The Department announced today that ICE will set “reasonable and realistic” bond amounts for individuals held in family detention facilities. It is unclear whether most individuals who demonstrate a credible fear of persecution will be required to pay a bond prior to release and what the amounts will be. Children and families who are apprehended at the border and who do not pose a public safety risk should be released on parole or cost-effective and community-based alternatives to detention rather than being offered high bond amounts that most Central American families cannot afford.

    DHS Secretary Johnson also directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to conduct credible and reasonable fear screenings within a reasonable timeframe.  Timely screenings are an important step, but WRC remains concerned about whether families will be able to be released after they demonstrate they have a credible fear of persecution due to the Department’s insistence on the payment of bonds.

    Women’s Refugee Commission has repeatedly found that there is no humane way to detain families. Our interviews and research have documented time and again that family detention creates and exacerbates despair and trauma in the mothers, fathers, and children fleeing violence whose request for protection are met with incarceration. The detention of children continues to be a violation of domestic and international laws, including the binding Flores settlement. We are disappointed that DHS reiterated in today’s announcement that it will continue to use family detention centers to ensure individuals are removed from the United States. Women and children who pose no threat to the the United States should be released to family members or into community support programs rather than subject to this costly and immoral practice. 

    tags: Detention