The Trump administration has overturned its policy to release pregnant women from immigration jail except in extreme circumstances. This new rule will enable Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold women in immigration jails by default, a move that ignores recommendations the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) own Inspector General. Read full story.
Since its inauguration, the Trump administration has aggressively attacked immigrants in our communities. Amid its attacks, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have received fierce criticism from journalists, advocates and lawyers for failing to release documents and data in a timely manner. The Huffington Post spoke with NIJC and other lawyers and advocates to learn more about ICE and CBP's lack of response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Read full story.
White House Memo Institutionalizes a National Policy of Cruelty
On Friday evening the President signed a memo ending a practice he refers to as “catch and release.” The term “catch and release” refers to the practice of allowing refugee men, women, and children who are fleeing persecution from their home countries to shelter with family, friends, or community in the United States while their asylum proceedings unfold in immigration court. Ending this practice institutionalizes the jailing of all asylum seekers arriving at our southern border for the duration of their asylum cases, which can take months or years. We condemn the issuance of this memo and what it represents: a tearing apart of the very fabric of our nation’s identity as a place of welcoming and compassion.
This memo caps a week of cross-agency policies that undermine basic human rights protections and institutionalize a formal policy of cruelty toward migrants and asylum seekers. The President ordered the deployment of the National Guard to the southern border to respond to arriving refugee mothers, fathers, and children (amidst historically low numbers of apprehensions at the border). Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a directive clarifying its intent to detain even more pregnant women, while reports escalated of border patrol and ICE officers forcibly separating mothers and fathers from their terrified children at the border. And, as a backdrop, the Department of Justice moved forward with questionable policies that undermine the Constitution; these policies include imposing case quotas on immigration judges and rewarding judges who order the maximum number of deportations in the shortest period of time.
“The President and his cabinet members talk a lot about ‘law and order,’” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, “but with these actions they are shredding our most cherished legal, constitutional, and human rights principles: the right to due process, the right to liberty, the right to family unity, and the domestic and internationally protected right to seek asylum.“
The rhetoric behind these policies intentionally dehumanizes refugees and our immigrant neighbors. Our nation’s asylum laws are consistent with international refugee law. Welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into our communities cannot and must not be seen as “catch and release.” We reject these false narratives and stand today and always with refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrant communities. Please join us.
Even as Congress voted last month to spend billions of tax dollars to extend the southern border wall and expand the immigration prison system, some members understood that Americans have a right to know how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is spending our money and seized the opportunity to implement new transparency and accountability requirements for the agency.
As the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue to escalate their attacks on immigrants and our nation’s justice system, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) condemns the Department of Justice’s implementation of a quota system that will punish immigration judges for not completing cases quickly enough and force them to expedite life-or-death decisions.
As NIJC has expressed since this policy was first proposed in 2017, implementing case quotas in the immigration courts demonstrates a dangerous misunderstanding of immigration judges’ role in the U.S. immigration system. Immigration judges should have one goal: the fair adjudication of each case that comes before them. That is the only metric that should count for any judicial system, and especially in immigration court, where lives are on the line every day.
Ashley Huebner, a managing attorney who oversees NIJC’s Asylum Project, offered the following comment in response to the quota announcement:
“At NIJC, we have witnessed the errors that occur in immigration proceedings when judges do not have sufficient discretion to manage their dockets in the way they deem best. The quota judges now must reach—700 case completions per year—is as unrealistic as it is dangerous. While there are many ways that Congress and this administration could improve the efficiency of the immigration court system, forcing judges to meet an arbitrary quota within an underfunded and backlogged court system will only result in limiting due process, curtailing judges’ deliberations, and denying immigrants adequate time to find lawyers and gather evidence.
“With this quota policy, this administration is essentially hijacking the immigration courts to achieve its goal of deporting as many immigrants as possible, as quickly as possible. Such appropriation of any part of the U.S. justice system should alarm Americans.”
As the Attorney General continues to limit due process protections for immigrants in removal proceedings, the importance of competent legal representation is increasingly critical. NIJC encourages attorneys to take action against these due process restrictions by accepting a pro bono asylum matter for representation. For more information, visit https://www.immigrantjustice.org/be-pro-bono-attorney.
During this free legal clinic, private attorneys from Chicago's top law firms will join with the National Immigrant Justice Center to complete and file applications for qualified individuals to RENEW their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Registration must be completed as soon as possible.
Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it has rescinded its policy of jailing pregnant women only in cases involving extraordinary circumstances. Instead, the agency intends to treat pregnant women as it would anyone else, using a “case-by-case custody determination” process which is just another excuse for prolonging detention of any and all immigrants.
“This shameful policy from ICE is the latest example of the administration’s broader and blatant anti-immigrant campaign,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy.
Federal immigration law already provides ICE broad authority to detain pregnant women, and ICE regularly does so in conditions that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s own Inspector General has found to “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.” Issuing a policy making it easier on the agency to engage in this practice is cruelty for cruelty’s sake.
In its newly issued directive, ICE claims it provides quality care to pregnant women in its custody. Yet only months ago, numerous nongovernmental organizations filed an administrative complaint on behalf of women who are or were pregnant in ICE detention documenting inadequate medical care and the pervasive anxiety and depression they suffered while jailed far from their loved ones and legal counsel.
Today, ICE’s more than 200 jails are filled with refugees, long-time beloved community members, and mothers and fathers torn from their children. ICE is now intentionally using the detention system to undermine our most fundamental values.
We call on Members of Congress to condemn this announcement immediately and demand restoration and meaningful implementation of ICE’s August 2016 directive providing minimal protections to pregnant women in detention.
TAKE ACTION! Call your members of Congress and urge them to publicly denounce ICE's new directive regarding the detention of pregnant women. Urge your U.S. representatives to support the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act requiring basic civil and human rights protections for vulnerable populations and all individuals in immigration jails.
As ICE Continues to Violate Child Protection Laws, Young Mother Joins NIJC Class-Action Lawsuit
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A teen mother who fled to the United States from El Salvador with her toddler son and spent two weeks at an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children is joining a national class action lawsuit after being unlawfully transferred to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) adult jail when she turned 18. Her son remains at the children’s shelter.
In a lawsuit filed in the District Court of Washington, D.C., on March 5, 2018, the National Immigrant Justice Center and pro bono attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis LLP are challenging ICE’s violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act which states that when unaccompanied immigrant children in ORR custody turn 18, instead of automatically transferring them to adult prisons, the government must consider alternatives such as placement with sponsors or supervised group homes. ICE has routinely and systemically failed to comply with the law—in this case, a young mother now is locked in a New Jersey jail, her child left behind and alone in ORR custody.
“It is heart-wrenching to see this family torn apart. Our client, a vulnerable teenager, is sitting in an immigration jail alone, separated from her 2-year-old son, and has no contact with him,” says Kate Melloy Goettel, senior litigation attorney at NIJC. “Separating a young mother from her child shows a complete failure on ICE’s part to follow the law and place 18-year-olds in the least restrictive setting. Their actions are illegal and cruel.”
“The facility where she is being held in ICE custody is an actual jail, where she is held in a locked room with a group of women noticeably older than she is,” says Anwen Hughes, a lawyer with the organization Human Rights First who is representing the young woman. “Social visits take place through a window and over a telephone, so that even if her child could be brought to see her, the experience would be traumatic both for her and for her toddler. In the universe of immigration detention it is hard to imagine a setting more restrictive than this.”
Jimenez Moreno et al v. Napolitano et al, 11-cv-05452 (N.D. Ill) is a federal class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for unlawfully detaining immigrants and U.S. citizens identified through local law enforcement agencies.
What are immigration detainers?