AILA: Shameful Escalation of ICE Raids is Misdirected at Vulnerable Families and Engenders a Culture of Fear

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

WASHINGTON, DC - Responding to confirmed reports that immigration authorities are planning another surge of arrests aimed at families and unaccompanied children across the nation, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) issued the following statement:

"The Obama Administration's mistreatment of vulnerable refugees seeking protection from unmitigated violence in Central America is a shameful violation of our nation's core values and a repudiation of basic principles of due process. Rather than responding to the refugee crisis in Central America with an intelligent strategy to address the root causes of violence in the region, and to ensure that the victims of that violence who arrive at our border have a full and fair opportunity to seek protection, it is clear that the administration has decided to ramp up its indefensible strategy of deterrence through incarceration and intimidation," said AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson.

He continued, "AILA urges President Obama to ensure that due process is upheld and that the rights of vulnerable families who are seeking asylum are protected. The processing of individuals who arrive at America's borders seeking a safe haven can be done in a way that is orderly and efficient, as well as fair and humane. Our government cannot in good conscience send people back to the extreme violence wreaking havoc in Central America."

AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis stated, "It is not illegal for a person fleeing persecution to arrive at the U.S. border and ask for asylum. Though our own laws protect asylum seekers, the federal government simply refuses to acknowledge that fact. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration continues to incarcerate mothers and children in family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania and to throw up roadblocks that keep them from getting attorneys. Despite these hurdles, hundreds of AILA members and other volunteers have spent thousands of hours providing legal assistance and a chance for protection, with great success. The last time these raids were conducted, families were sent to the South Texas Family Residential Center for processing and removal. Of the 13 families who were allowed to see a volunteer attorney, 12 had their deportations stayed by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Studies show that the assistance of an attorney markedly improves the chance that someone fleeing violence will get protection."

Mr. Nieblas concluded, "Central American mothers and children who are seeking asylum must have a chance to access legal counsel before they are deported back to danger. We urge the administration to work with stakeholders to ensure that no one is wrongfully denied protection. What is at stake here is nothing less than our nation's fundamental values and the very lives of women and children. The administration should not enshrine these dreadful actions as their lasting legacy in refugee treatment."

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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. 16051205.