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Women’s Refugee Commission Releases Report on Detention of Women Seeking Asylum in the United States

Washington, DC – Today, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) released their report on the detention of women seeking asylum in the U.S., entitled “Prison For Survivors,” in response to the fundamental and nearly unprecedented transformation of the immigration detention system.

Alarmed by the increase in the detention of women seeking asylum, WRC sought to document the conditions of detention, treatment, and obstacles to a fair asylum process that women in detention face by visiting seven detention facilities in Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. In 2016 and 2017, WRC spoke with numerous local service providers and advocates, analyzed government data, and interviewed approximately 150 women who were in need of protection but were instead detained, many for months.

As part of a continuing effort to document the detention of women seeking asylum in the U.S., WRC also joined several civil and human rights organizations last week to file an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf of women who are or were detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The complaint expressed grave concerns about ICE’s failure to implement its own policy limiting the detention of pregnant women as well as concerns about detention conditions and inadequate medical care reported by detained women. The information contained in the complaint is consistent with the findings of “Prison For Survivors.”

According to Katharina Obser, Senior Program Officer at WRC:

“Our findings make it clear that not only are more women in detention than ever before, but also that detention practices – both treatment and conditions – ignore the needs of women and impede access to protection. It is not illegal to seek asylum in the United States. Women and children who do seek asylum are vulnerable, and should not be handled as criminals or deprived of basic resources. The U.S. government should need no further evidence that detention and deterrence efforts are not and never will be appropriate for those who are fleeing for their lives. The conditions and barriers to protection facing asylum-seeking women will only continue to worsen if the Trump administration’s priorities are funded and policies enacted.”


  • More women are in detention than ever before, and the number of women and girls seeking asylum while in detention has grown exponentially.
  • U.S. detention practices preclude meaningful due process and access to justice.
  • Detention practices – both treatment and conditions – ignore the needs of women and impede access to protection.
  • Arbitrary high bond and no-release policies kept and continue to keep asylum seekers detained and protection denied.
  • Family separation violates family unity and undermines access to protection.

Find a summary of key findings and recommendations as well as the entire report here.