AILA: Little Meaningful Change in ICE Announcement on Family Detention

Thursday, May 14, 2015

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

WASHINGTON, DC - Leslie A. Holman, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), responded to the announcement of plans by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for "enhanced oversight for family residential centers" with the following statement:

"After months of detailing the many failures of the family detention apparatus by AILA and other stakeholders, after months of ICE ignoring those failures and neglecting to act, the announcement is, at its core, almost meaningless. Yes, better oversight of operations and greater access for desperately needed pro bono legal services are long overdue. However, the rest of this announcement is lipstick on a pig.

"ICE announced that now they will work with stakeholders 'to listen and discuss their concerns regarding family residential centers.' Are you kidding me? The concerns have been expressed exhaustively. Are they saying that now they are going to finally listen? If so, why did they issue this 'more of the same' release?

"Mothers trying to find refuge from violence for their children should never have been detained in the first place. Yet they are treated as though they are threats to public safety or national security. One example is Melida and her four-year-old daughter Estrella, locked up for nine months and counting; Estrella's health has deteriorated under the stress of detention and she has lost weight and is chronically ill. They have had the review process that this announcement says will be extended to others. The result? They remain in indefinite detention. And they are not alone in this. How can anyone take seriously the announced review process when it already has proven worthless?

"Will an agency that has fought for detention without bond for victims of domestic abuse be able to 'ensure the designated bond amount continues to be appropriate'? That implies that they were appropriate in the first place, yet when finally forced by a court to issue bonds, ICE has issued them in amounts that are so unattainable as to be equivalent to no bond. It has only been through lengthy immigration court processes that bonds have been brought within reason.

"This new announcement does almost nothing to address the fundamental issue that there is no humane way to detain families. Instead of five new action items, the Administration should turn instead to smart solutions and end family detention once and for all. No innocent child and courageous mother should waste away in a jail."


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.

AILA Offers Reality Check on ICE Announcement

Read about the key aspects of the new plans and the difference between what ICE says and what AILA knows from our ongoing efforts to end family detention.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 15051462.