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  • DHS Releases Detained Asylum-Seeking Families

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    July 13, 2015 -- Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the long sought for release of families who have been detained while seeking asylum in the United States. This is the result of a concerted effort on the part of the Women’s Refugee Commission and other organizations to end detention practices that violate the rights of individuals and run contrary the values of this country.

    DHS announced that it would immediately begin the release of asylum seekers who have passed an initial credible or reasonable fear screening.

    “The reforms announced today are welcome news for families languishing in remote detention facilities simply because they sought refuge in the U.S.,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program. “While DHS’s announcement is a critical step forward, we continue to believe that families seeking protection at our border should not be detained at all.”

    “Even short periods of detention have been shown to cause harm to asylum-seekers and especially children,” said Brané. “Instead, the government should either reunite mothers and children with relatives in the United States or turn to proven and cost-effective alternatives to detention to mitigate possible flight risk.”

    Families should receive inexpensive and holistic case management services wherever possible to ensure that they understand their case and legal requirements upon release. Current alternatives to detention cost between 17 cents and $17 per day compared to the $343 daily cost of detaining each family member. DHS should also ensure that any imposition of a bond does not preclude a bona fide asylum seeker from being released only because of an inability to pay.

    The Women’s Refugee Commission has long documented that there is no humane way to detain families. Most recently, we submitted a joint complaint to DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties highlighting the devastating and long-lasting impact that confinement creates or exacerbates in families, many of whom have already survived trauma and violence.

    Said Brané: “Today’s announcement will have enormous implications for the mothers, fathers, and children who have been locked up for so long. We hope that this is a sign that the Administration finally recognizes that its family detention policies are out of compliance with domestic and international protection obligations.”