AILA: Need to End Family Detention Ever More Clear

Friday, June 12, 2015

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

Washington, DC - Leslie A. Holman, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) responded today to reports by AILA volunteers that some children and mothers who have been incarcerated in family detention facilities for prolonged lengths of time are being granted bonds by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the following statement:

"Eleven months and two days is how long Melida and her four-year-old daughter Estrella waited, suffering in detention after fleeing for their lives. Eleven months and two days of fear and insecurity, of stress and harm to their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. For eleven months and two days, their relatives waited, willing to welcome and support them during their immigration court proceedings while DHS spent upwards of $300 per day to detain them. That utterly unnecessary time in detention re-traumatized a little girl and her mother; the government persisted in its illogical refusal to grant bond until now. Thanks to the more than 23,000 people across the country petitioning ICE for their release, pressure from Members of Congress, and countless hours of effort from her volunteer attorneys, they are finally free and safe.

"But so many others are not. The tragic reality is that more than 2,000 children and mothers remain detained, despite the vast majority of them having strong cases for asylum or other type of relief, because ICE will not set a bond or has set one so high they cannot possibly pay. Freedom for a few, while the nightmare continues for everyone else detained, is not sufficient. Three-quarters of the members of Congress from the President's own party have now called on him to end this shameful practice. That is what we should be doing - ending this practice once and for all.

"Next Saturday, the day before we celebrate Father's Day, will mark one year since DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the beginning of the 'detain to deter' strategy: the opening of the family detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico. Since then, scores of women and children have been deported back to danger and thousands have had their families torn apart and languished in detention for lengthy periods while the health and happiness of their children faltered under the strain of incarceration.

"Our President and this country should be ashamed that the answer we've given to families who fled to our country for life-saving protection is to detain them and deny them their freedom.

"There are still infants behind fences, toddlers who learned to walk in detention, preschoolers drawing pictures of guards, and school-age children stricken with fear. These courageous mothers, who fled from turmoil to seek refuge here, should not be locked up and it is immoral that DHS continues this inhumane practice when alternatives exist."


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. 15061207.