Due Process For Asylum-Seekers: New Ruling Offers Hope For Detained Central American Mothers And Children
When 10 Central American mothers and their children fled their homes and escaped into the U.S. in 2014, they were soon caught by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. Even though they were undocumented, the women were able to prove that they had credible fears of being persecuted if they returned to their violent and dangerous home nations.
They were dismayed to learn that they would be locked up in detention centers while their cases were being processed. This represented a new, harsher policy set by the Obama administration. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the administration, claiming that the "No Release Policy" adopted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was locking up mothers and children who should be eligible for asylum.
A U.S. District Court judge agreed. On February 20th, 2015, the judge blocked the "No Release Policy" from being further enforced.
Judge's ruling is an injunction against locking up mothers and children.
DHS claimed that these mothers posed a flight risk, but critics believe the decision to detain asylum-seeking mothers and children was based on a desire to deter other Central American families from crossing over into the U.S.
The judge found that DHS had shown no relationship between locking up mothers and children and deterring other Central American refugees.
Most importantly, the ruling includes an injunction barring any other mothers and children from being detained without a valid reason. Refugees seeking asylum are entitled to the protections of the Due Process Clause, especially when their freedom is at stake, according to the judge.
Some detainees are being released on bond.
Immigration attorneys aren't sure how this decision will immediately impact their clients, but several detainees have already been released on reasonable bond amounts. Families are scraping together the funds to help free their loved ones and the children locked up with them.
The hope is that all mothers and children will soon be free to leave the detention facilities so that they can work on their asylum cases and connect with their families. Many of these mothers have established their status as refugees and should eventually be afforded asylum. Locking these parents and their children away stalls their assimilation into their new culture, delays the children's ability to begin public schooling and denies these asylum-seekers the love and support of their families.
It's unclear where DHS will go from here.
No one is certain what DHS will do in response to this ruling. They may adopt a different policy to determine the rationale for detainment, or they may appeal the judge's decision. Since the judge stated that the "No Release Policy" is most likely unlawful, the hope is that further rulings on the matter will be good news for detainees.
Next month, a final opinion on the matter is expected to be issued by the court. Immigration advocates hope that the practice of locking up mothers and children will finally be a thing of the past.
If you have an immigrant family member detained in a DHS facility, and you believe this ruling affects their case, contact an immigration attorney from Ahmad Law Office PLLC or a similar firm. He or she will know the correct procedures to follow to have your loved one's case reviewed.