AILA Condemns AG’s Decision that Purports to Alter the Standards for Bond

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Contact: Judith Golub
(202) 216-2403

April 24, 2003       


AG Decision Also Leads Legal Experts to Question ‘National Security’ Rationale and Authority of the Attorney General

Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) strongly criticizes and condemns the Justice Department’s precedent decision that would adversely affect persons of all nationalities seeking bond. “Decisions about whether people seeking asylum should be detained or not should be made on an individual basis, and the decisions of an immigration judge and the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA) should be respected,” said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA.

“Through this broad decision, the Attorney General uses vague and indefinable criteria and essentially attempts to enact law through administrative fiat,” said Ms. Butterfield. “The rule of law sets our nation apart from others. Laws come about through Congress passing a bill that the President signs, not through the unilateral actions of the Attorney General,” continued Ms. Butterfield.

In a recently released decision, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the government to vacate a bond ruling set by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  The Attorney General’s decision overrides the decision of both the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and has serious consequences for all detained undocumented immigrants, not only the individual in whose case the Attorney General intervened.   The case involves an 18-year-old Haitian refugee who sought refuge in Florida along with 200 others. Most of these people have been detained since their arrival Oct. 29.  In November 2002, an immigration judge found that the Haitian refugee was eligible to be released on bond.

In his decision, Attorney General Ashcroft stated that there is “a national security concern” raised in this case. “Unfortunately, the Attorney General has hijacked the concern we all share about enhancing our national security, and appears to be using national security as a cover for this ill-conceived decision that creates a bad precedent,”  said Ms. Butterfield.  “This decision does a disservice to our security concerns by wasting precious resources. We need to focus our attention and resources on actions that truly make us safer,” continued Ms. Butterfield.  

Along with concerns about the Attorney General usurping such blanket and broad authority and using the cover of national security concerns, this decision also raises the question as to which federal agency is in charge of immigration: the newly created Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Justice?  “This decision raises grave concerns about whether one federal agency is in charge of immigration,” said Ms. Butterfield, “and which agency that would be.  Effective, efficient, and fair immigration policy that helps make us safer needs to have a clear source of authority.  This decision makes it difficult to determine who is in charge of our immigration policy,” continued Ms. Butterfield. “Why did the Department of Homeland Security ask the Attorney General to issue this decision?  Furthermore, does the Attorney General even have the authority to issue such a decision,” questioned Ms. Butterfield.    

“We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. Sadly, this decision calls into question how we make our laws and how we must develop and implement policies and laws that truly make us safer.  This decision also follows many actions taken by the Administration that have made immigrants feel besieged and have not enhanced our security,” concluded Ms. Butterfield.  


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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the INS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.


American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03042540.