AILA: Federal Government Continues Unnecessarily Harsh Enforcement Tactics Harming Families and Communities

CONTACTS:
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org
Belle Woods
202-507-7675
bwoods@aila.org

WASHINGTON, DC - The recently released enforcement numbers show that the Department of Homeland Security is deporting children and families without due process and instilling a sense of fear in communities across the nation, says the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). AILA President Victor Nieblas stated:

"DHS enforcement policies involving women and children seeking asylum at our borders violate due process, repudiate our fundamental values of fairness and justice, and have sown widespread fear and turmoil in communities, schools and churches nationwide. Instead of patting himself on the back for deporting women and children through the so-called 'Operation Border Guardian' program, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson should be appalled at these actions which offend the fundamental principles of our judicial system and our values as a nation. By refusing to acknowledge the distrust and terror that is the result of using these harsh enforcement tactics on the most vulnerable, he and President Obama are living up to the worst rather than the best of America and leaving a shameful legacy of unfair and unjust treatment of children, mothers, and asylum seekers.

"Kimberly Chavez, a 10th grader who was arrested on her way to school on January 27 and has since been detained in an adult facility in Georgia for weeks, is one of many examples AILA has raised. She is under threat of imminent deportation when all she wants is a chance to pursue her claim for asylum. Instead of helping unaccompanied children, the government appears to be waiting until they turn 18 to deport them back to the dangerous conditions from which they fled. Hundreds of youth like Kimberly have been arrested since the start of the year; the government is trying to use them as billboards in Central America to deter others from coming. That is unconscionable. These are human beings who have a right to seek protection under our laws and the government must take every precaution to make sure they get a real chance to do that.

"Recognizing the sad reality that only about fifty percent of unaccompanied children and fewer than thirty percent of families ever have a lawyer to help them in immigration court, members of the House and Senate recently introduced bills to guarantee access to counsel for the most vulnerable. And it can't come fast enough - having representation increases a child's chance of winning asylum fivefold. Of all the children's cases that began in either FY2014 or FY2015 and resulted in a removal order, 89.2% were unrepresented by counsel. Despite that fact, a high-ranking immigration judge recently stated his preposterous belief that three- and four-year-olds can be taught immigration law. AILA will continue to challenge these abusive practices and fight for due process and fundamental fairness for vulnerable populations."

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 16031107.