Posts Tagged ‘Detention’

The Government Continues to Ignore the Rights of Children in Detention, Court Finds

Jueves, julio 13th, 2017
 The Government Continues to Ignore the Rights of Children in Detention, Court Finds

Written by Karolina Walters

Despite being among some of the most vulnerable, children seeking asylum in the United States often fare the worst. Upon entering the United States, children are often detained for extended periods in violation of a long-standing agreement known as the Flores settlement.

The Flores agreement essentially acts as a contract between the government and children held in immigration custody. On Tuesday, a federal district court judge ruled once again that the government is failing to meet its obligations to children held in immigration custody.

The court found a number of violations, including holding children too long in detention, in substandard conditions, and in non-licensed facilities. In addition, the court ruled that the government is required to look at each child’s case individually to determine whether release from custody is appropriate—the government may not rely on any blanket standard to avoid the responsibility of assessing each case individually.

The Flores agreement is a nationwide settlement reached in 1997. In this settlement, the government agreed that children taken into immigration custody would be placed in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to [their] age and special needs” and would be released “without unnecessary delay,” preferably to a parent. The settlement also requires that if a child is not released to a parent, adult relative, or an appropriate guardian, children must be placed in non-secure facilities licensed for the care of dependent children within five days of apprehension.

Two years ago, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), on behalf of immigrant children, brought suit to enforce the Flores settlement. In July and August of 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee said the government must apply the settlement to all minors, including those detained with family members. Tuesday’s order from Judge Gee outlines the particular ways in which the government is in breach of the Flores settlement and how the court seeks to ensure compliance going forward.

For example, the settlement requires that children be released “without unnecessary delay,” subject to certain exceptions in the settlement agreement, including “in the event of an emergency influx of minors into the United States.” In her August 2015 Order, Judge Gee ruled that, based on extenuating circumstances, if at the current time “20 days is as fast as [the government], in good faith and in the exercise of due diligence, can possibly go” that time frame may be in line with the Flores agreement.

However, in Tuesday’s order, the court found that even if the court makes allowances for an “emergency influx,” the government is still not complying with the Flores agreement, because many children were being held even beyond the 20-day period.

To correct this and the other violations, the court ordered that the government identify a Juvenile Coordinator within 30 days of the order, to monitor compliance, as provided for under the Flores agreement itself. After a year, if the court determines that the government is still not substantially complying with the agreement, the court will consider appointing an independent monitor.

Judge Gee’s order makes clear that the government is not honoring its contract and must be held accountable. As put most succinctly by Judge Gee: “Defendants entered into the Flores Agreement and now they do not want to perform—but want this Court to bless the breach. That is not how contracts work.”

It remains to be seen how the government will respond and whether it will honor its commitments under the Flores agreement, but the order is a long-sought victory for the fair treatment of some of the most vulnerable among us—children held in immigration custody.

Photo by European Commission DG ECHO

Publication Date: July 13 2017
Source: www.immigrationimpact.com

Parents Risk Prosecution for Helping Children Seek Safety in the United States

Lunes, julio 10th, 2017
 Parents Risk Prosecution for Helping Children Seek Safety in the United States

Written by Royce Murray

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials recently confirmed their plans to initiate criminal prosecutions and deportation proceedings against immigrant parents and guardians who help bring their children to the United States through the use of smugglers or traffickers. Reports indicate that these enforcement actions are already underway.

The ostensible goal is to disrupt smuggling networks that sometimes victimize these children by punishing the adults who may have arranged the trip. However, it’s unclear how DHS might assess whether a child’s guardian was party to the smuggling or was aware that their child was intending to migrate at all. Advocates for immigrant children are already observing new questions being asked of children during interviews with government officials including who made and paid for their travel arrangements.

Whether the government obtains credible evidence that stands up in court remains to be seen. Yet what’s missing from this punitive approach is a nuanced understanding of the impossible choice parents often face: whether to let their child remain in a home country at grave risk of harm or help them embark on a dangerous journey in the hope that their child reaches safety.

No parent deserves to face harsh punishment for trying to protect their child. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics condemned this new enforcement initiative:

It is difficult to imagine what it would be like to be a parent who lives in fear for their child’s life, health and safety every day. For these parents, it is not a choice to bring a child to our country, it is a last resort effort to save his or her life. Fleeing violence, persecution and brutality, even if it involves sending the child alone on a dangerous journey, is not a choice.

If ICE follows through on these prosecutions, the consequences could be dire with more children left in government custody at taxpayer expense.

When children arrive at the border without a parent, they are transferred to a shelter run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as deportation proceedings are initiated against them.

The child remains in custody until and unless there is an opportunity to safely release them into the care of a parent, family member, or other sponsor. For those children who do not have a family reunification option, foster care is explored.

The immigration status of the sponsor has never been a relevant factor; what matters most is the best interests of the child, which usually calls for reuniting with family who can assist them with recovering from past harm and navigating the complexities of seeking asylum or other relief from deportation.

Thus the consequences of this policy shift are bound to be profound. If a parent or sponsor is undocumented and at risk of having their immigration status shared by HHS with the Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of deporting them or referring them for prosecution on smuggling charges, they may avoid coming forward to care for these children, leaving them to languish in shelters or be unnecessarily placed in foster care.

The only deterrence the administration will likely accomplish is impeding parents and caregivers from coming forward to take custody of children in need of shelter.

If a house was on fire, we would never lock the doors to keep children inside. Nor would we punish those who seek to help the victims escape the flames. And while the most important task may be to put out the fire, we wouldn’t make children stay in the house until the fire is extinguished. Why treat children fleeing violence any differently?

Rather than punishing parents and guardians, the best solution to ending the migration of unaccompanied children from Central America is to address root causes of violence in the region. But while these systemic efforts are critical, they can’t come at the expense of those who need safety now.

Photo by Giles Douglas

Última Actualización: Julio 10 de 2017
Source: www.immigrationimpact.com

The Perils of Expedited Removal How Fast-Track Deportations Jeopardize Asylum Seekers Part II

Lunes, mayo 22nd, 2017
The Perils of Expedited Removal How Fast-Track Deportations Jeopardize Asylum Seekers Part II

By Kathryn Shepherd and Royce Bernstein Murray
“I was interviewed by a male asylum officer. He asked me if I wanted to be interviewed by a female officer and I said that I had no preference. At that moment I felt uncomfortable telling the officer that I didn’t want to be interviewed by him. I had been raped in Guatemala and I could not share that entire story with a male officer. But I didn’t feel like I could tell him that I wanted to change officials. If I had a female officer I might have been able to tell her my full story. I felt fear and shame at the interview. I also feared that my husband could find out that I had been raped if I had said it. I can’t tell my husband because he would reject me and blame me. In my culture, if a man does improper things to a woman, most of the time the woman is blamed. My people think that if a man “crossed the line” it is because the woman allowed him to. In the Mam culture, men are the ones who rule and women have to obey their fathers and husbands.”

These are the words of Valeria, a Guatemalan asylum seeker, who described the difficulty she had sharing critical aspects of her claim to the asylum officer during her screening interview. Valeria fled Guatemala with Idalia, her then 7-year-old daughter, after years of extreme physical violence at the hands of Valeria’s father, rape by her ex-partner, and, more recently, a brutal gang rape by members of a transnational criminal organization (TCO).

Valeria and Idalia sought asylum in the United States, but were detained and placed in the expedited removal process. They were required to undergo the credible fear interview process—the first step for asylum seekers in fast-track removal processes—before being released from detention and permitted to continue fighting their case in immigration court. During those weeks in custody, the U.S. government expected Valeria to quickly navigate a complex asylum system in an atmosphere that frequently impedes a fair hearing. Valeria was required to overcome the challenges of speaking a rare language and articulating a traumatic story before she could pursue her claim for asylum in a full merits hearing with an immigration judge.

In years past, Valeria and Idalia might have been given the chance to make their case directly to an immigration judge, providing ample time to seek legal counsel and prepare to tell their stories fully. However, protection for asylum-seeking families like Valeria’s has been more difficult to access since 2014. In response to the dramatic rise in Central American families arriving at the southwest border to seek asylum, the government sought to stem the number of asylum claims by reducing the time and opportunity available to make a claim for asylum. This has been accomplished largely by placing many of these families in remote detention facilities while subjecting them to fast-track deportation processes. These processes involve remarkably complex procedures designed to prevent the unlawful deportation of asylum seekers, yet in practice they create additional barriers for many families.

Given that very few asylum-seeking families speak English, most have experienced significant trauma in their countries or during their journeys north, and they have no right to government-appointed legal counsel, the bureaucratic hurdles can be insurmountable. The added stress of detention, particularly detention of children, further complicates most mothers’ ability to remain focused on presenting a clear case for asylum. Nuanced legal standards applied by government officials asking difficult questions about a family’s worst fears and experiences threaten to transform what is meant to be merely a preliminary screening process into a full-blown, high-stakes asylum interview.

For many families, the physical presence of pro bono legal counsel at family detention facilities has made all the difference in their opportunity to seek asylum. But even for those who successfully navigate the process with the help of legal counsel, the challenges are extraordinary. Identifying and categorizing these challenges not only illustrates the high barriers to accessing the asylum system and immigration court, but also demonstrates why attorneys are an essential part of the process. To understand these interconnected issues, the authors drew from thousands of case files of families detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas—the country’s largest family detention center—to identify some of those who experienced challenges in their pursuit of protection. Although many of the families whose stories are highlighted in this report were ultimately able to forestall immediate deportation and will have their asylum cases heard by an immigration judge, in all of the cases the presence of legal counsel enabled the families to overcome the multiple challenges they faced. These accounts from women and children provide a window into how these challenges plague all asylum seekers subjected to fast-track deportations while held in detention facilities throughout the country.

U.S. “Expedited Removal” Policy and Asylum Seekers at the Border

Beginning in the spring of 2014, the United States saw a dramatic uptick in arrivals of Central American mothers with children, as well as unaccompanied children, at the southern border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. While there is always a confluence of factors that drive a wave of migration at any one time, epidemic levels of violence and impunity in the Northern Triangle of Central America (comprising El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) unmistakably drove these vulnerable groups to flee their countries in search of protection. The murder rates in these countries are among the highest in the world. In 2016, El Salvador was the most violent nation in the Americas, while the murder rates in Honduras and Guatemala were among the five highest in the hemisphere.

Although most victims of murder in these countries are men, there is acute violence against women. In 2012, El Salvador and Guatemala were ranked first and third, respectively, as having the highest murder rates for women in the world. Gang activity is a major cause of the violence that plagues the region. Teenage boys are targeted for gang recruitment under threat of death, while women and girls are forced to become “gang girlfriends” and the “property” of gang members or face a similar fate. These threats are often compounded by rampant domestic violence and threats of political persecution that jeopardize the well-being and stability of many families fleeing the Northern Triangle and parts of the Caribbean.

The migration routes from many countries to the United States are well-trod; for decades asylum seekers and migrants have made the journey to flee civil wars, poverty, and environmental disasters. Many who are fleeing Central America turn to the United States as a strong option for safe haven, given family and community ties. Most who fled in recent years knew full well the risks and perils they would face on the journey—traffickers, cartels, and bandits prey on migrants along the way— but left anyway. The search for safety was a necessity and remaining at home was no longer an option.

When more asylum-seeking families arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, the U.S. government quickly ramped up capacity to detain arriving families with the creation of large detention facilities in Artesia, New Mexico (closed in December 2014); Karnes City, Texas; and Dilley, Texas. Prior to this, only a small residential facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania, was in operation. By the spring of 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had approximately 3,300 beds and cribs to detain mothers and their minor children, who ranged from newborns to near 18-year-olds.

Most families placed in detention are in a fast-track deportation process called “expedited removal.” A person subject to expedited removal (which, under current U.S. policy, may include those apprehended within 100 miles of a U.S. land border and within 14 days of entry) can be immediately ordered deported by an immigration officer without ever seeing an immigration judge. Those who tell a DHS official that they are afraid to return to their home countries are given screening interviews with an asylum officer to see if they have a credible fear of persecution. If so, they are entitled to a full asylum hearing before an immigration judge. If not, they face swift deportation unless they seek review of the negative determination by an immigration judge, which is generally cursory.

This process, while complex, is supposed to ensure asylum seekers are not unlawfully deported to a country where they could face grave harm or death. In practice, however, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers do not always adequately screen migrants or ask if they fear return to their home countries. At times agents ignore expressions of fear and summarily deport asylum seekers. Less than 20 percent of the people ordered removed ever see an in immigration judge due to CBP’s use of summary removal processes.

Última Actualización: Mayo 22 de 2017
Source: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org

How Fast-Track Deportations Jeopardize Asylum Seekers Part I

Miércoles, mayo 17th, 2017
How Fast-Track Deportations Jeopardize Asylum Seekers

By Kathryn Shepherd and Royce Bernstein Murray

This report shows through the use of original testimony that the government’s reliance on “fast-track” deportation methods, such as expedited removal, in conjunction with detention often results in disadvantaging one of the most vulnerable groups of non-citizens currently in the U.S. immigration system: women and their children held in detention centers in rural, isolated locations in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Accounts from women and children detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the country’s largest family detention center, illustrate the many obstacles a detained asylum seeker must overcome in order to obtain a meaningful day in court. The authors drew from a database of thousands of case files to identify families who experienced one or more of the challenges outlined in this paper.

Although many of the families whose stories are highlighted in this report were ultimately able to forestall immediate deportation with the assistance of legal counsel, all of them faced serious obstacles accessing the asylum process. Detained asylum seekers encounter numerous challenges, including the following problems detailed in this report.

  • High Incidence of Psychological Trauma among Detainees
    Many of the asylum-seeking women and children who are detained in Dilley experience psychological trauma as a result of their past persecution or fear of future persecution. This trauma is compounded by the experience of detention, the limited access to medical and psychological services in the detention center, and other policies outlined below.

 

  • Separation of Family Members after Arriving at the Border
    Current government policy mandates that women must be separated from their spouses, adult children, parents, siblings, and other family members before they are transferred to the detention center in Dilley, Texas. The emotional impact of family separation – and the possibility that a separated family member with the same claim for relief may be deported – may have a profound effect on the ability of a woman or child to testify during their fear interview with the asylum office or before the immigration court.

 

  • Medical Conditions Adversely Impact the Ability to Pursue Protection
    The women and children who are transferred to the detention center in Dilley suffer from a range of medical conditions. The prevalence of medical conditions may affect a worried mother’s ability to tell her story during her interview if her child is ill, or the sickness itself could affect a child or woman’s ability to articulate her story.

 

  • Limited Access to Language Services
    While the majority of families who are transferred to the detention center in Dilley speak Spanish, many do not. The languages spoken within the walls of the detention center in Dilley are diverse. Access to interpretation services is limited, which may present problems for women and children attempting to seek help at the medical clinic, ask questions about their legal cases, and, most importantly, undergo fear interviews with the asylum office or hearings with the immigration court.

 

  • Complexity of the Legal Standard Applicable to Credible Fear Screenings
    The immigration system is notoriously complicated, and the credible fear screening process is no exception. The legal standards to which asylum seekers are held are nuanced and complex, even for well-trained attorneys, let alone lay persons. Many of the factors outlined in this paper, including the prevalence of trauma and medical conditions, may further impede a person’s ability to understand the legal process and articulate a claim for protection.

 

  • Procedural Defects in the Credible Fear Interview Process
    The credible fear interview process is potentially rife with procedural errors. Asylum officers are required to conduct the interview in compliance with printed guidance and law, but occasionally fail to do so. For example, officers must ensure that an asylum seeker feels comfortable, ask sufficient follow up questions to reveal critical information in the person’s case, and evaluate a parent’s claim for protection separately from the child’s (and vice versa). However, an officer may not develop the rapport with the mother or child that is needed to fulfill these obligations. Such procedural pitfalls, and many others, may adversely affect the outcome of an asylum seeker’s claim.

 

While the voices in this report are predominantly of asylum-seeking mothers and their children from Central America and the surrounding region, the obstacles this population faces illustrate the high risk of error in asylum screenings for all noncitizens who are held in detention facilities around the country during their fast-track deportation proceedings.

Finally, the report looks at the critical role attorneys play in the cases of those who fail to pass their fear interview in the first instance due to one or several of the challenges highlighted above. The case stories illustrate how these pitfalls place families at risk of being returned to the very countries where they fear persecution.

Última Actualización: Mayo 17 de 2017
Source: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org