AILA: DHS Plans on Family Detention Are a Step Forward

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

Washington, DC - Victor Nieblas Pradis, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded to new plans announced by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson relating to family detention policies with the following:

"It is important to hear the Secretary of Homeland Security acknowledge that long-term detention 'should be discontinued.' This plan, which includes truly affordable bonds that are appropriate to each person's circumstances, and timely processing of asylum interviews, should result in prompt release for detained asylum seekers after passing their credible or reasonable fear interviews. Taken together, if properly implemented, these changes could make a real difference to detained mothers and children in the darkness that is family detention.

"But while I want to be optimistic, two realities remain. First, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and USCIS must execute the process in a reasonable manner. The Secretary's plan will be defeated if ICE still refuses to release families, finds excuses not to apply reasonable bonds, or does not do so in a timely manner, or if USCIS suddenly reverts to the low rate of credible fear findings that occurred in the early days of family detention, before the families obtained legal representation.

"And, second, even with these changes, we are still not where we need to be. Our government still will be detaining children and mothers when we already know that it is highly inappropriate and traumatic to do so for any length of time. These are still prisons, designed and built to incarcerate and run by a warden. That culture will be more difficult to alter. And all volunteer attorneys have witnessed first-hand the psychological damage that detention has done to detained moms and kids.

"So I applaud these changes, I welcome them with open arms. But more is needed. There is simply no humane way to detain families. Asylum seeking families should be given due process, not expedited removal. And the end of the road must be the end of family detention entirely."

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. 15062439.