Judge blocks indefinite detention of asylum seekers

A US district court judge ruled on July 1 that the Department of Homeland Security cannot hold migrants seeking asylum indefinitely as was previously ordered by Attorney General William Barr. Judge Marsha Pechman, of the Western District of Washington in Seattle, held that section 235(b)(1)(B)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits releasing on bond persons who have been found to have a credible fear of persecution in their home country, violates the US Constitution. Pechman’s decision stated that the plaintiffs in the case, Padilla vs ICE, have established that asylum seekers have “a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty” and a “right to due process, which includes a hearing.”

Granting a preliminary injunction, Judge Pechman ordered the Department of Homeland Security to arrange for asylum seekers to have a bail hearing within seven days of their initial request. If a hearing is not provided within seven days, then the individual must be released.

The case factors into the Trump administration’s attempt to limit the entry of asylum seekers into the US. Judge Pechman noted that the government will likely appeal the decision. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “No single district judge has legitimate authority to impose his or her open borders views on the country.” She added that the injunction was “at war with the rule of law.”

From Jurist, July 3. Used with permission.

Note: This was one of the Trump administration’s several moves to discourage asylum-seekers and steps toward indefinite detention. Rights abuses in the detenton system have been amply documented.

Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr

  1. Government clears way for indefinite detention of child migrants
    Migrant families who cross the southern border of the US illegally could be detained indefinitely under a new regulation announced by the Trump administration. The departments of Homeland Security and Health & Human Services announced the new rule Aug. 21. The rule effectively ends the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA), which set the policy for detaining immigrant minors. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan argued that recent interpretations of the FSA increased illegal border crossings with minors because immigrants knew that those arriving with children would be released pending court hearings. (BBC News, Jurist)

  2. Parents of 545 children separated at border still not found

    A court-appointed “steering committee” filed a joint status report Oct.  20 providing an update on its efforts to reunite migrant children separated from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” immigration policy in 2017 and 2018. According to the report, of the 1,030 children identified as a class in Ms. L v. ICE the steering committee has been unable to contact the parents of 545. It is estimated that two-thirds of the parents have been removed to their home countries without their children. About 60 of the children were under the age of five when they were separated, the documents show. (Jurist, NYT)