Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and over 200 organizations, attorneys, faith leaders, and other advocates sent a letter today to U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) documenting a rise in the use of denials of bond and parole for vulnerable asylum seekers in immigration detention. CIVIC and the organizations who signed on to the letter documented 805 cases at 37 immigration detention facilities of individuals who have been arbitrarily denied parole or bond since January 20, 2017.
“Denying parole and bond to families and individuals does not protect the public. We believe the prolonged immigration detention of these 805 individuals who have been denied parole or bond is unreasonable, unjust, and unconstitutional,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and the co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), the author of the letter.
At issue is the Trump administration’s January 25th Executive Order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” and the subsequent Implementation Memo by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), released February 20, 2017. Both documents have had a chilling effect on the use of parole and bond.
“Many people who have been denied parole were given a cursory, at best, review of their case. Many received no explanation for the reasons why they were denied, even after attorneys tried to obtain more information from DHS. The 805 cases we documented are people we believe would have been granted parole or bond by DHS under the Obama Administration,” said Fialho.
Asylum seekers who arrive at ports of entry are eligible for parole under U.S. law if they pass a credible fear interview, but many who pass the interview are not being paroled in practice under DHS’s new policy. The rate at which asylum seekers are establishing credible fear at ports of entry has not substantially changed under the Trump administration. For the most recent time period for which comparable data is available (February and March 2016), 82 percent of asylum seekers at ports of entry established a credible fear of persecution. During the same time period this year (February and March 2017), 83.9 percent established a credible fear of persecution. Yet, despite this high percentage of asylum seekers with credible fears of persecution, attorneys and advocates across the country are witnessing a marked increase in the denial of parole or bond to families and individuals who are simply exercising their right to seek protection under international and domestic law.
ICE also has the authority to release asylum seekers or any other person in immigration detention on bond. Technically, ICE can even release people on bond who are in mandatory immigration detention. While ICE rarely released someone on bond who was in mandatory immigration detention under the Obama administration, ICE did release asylum seekers and immigrants with strong ties to the community on bond. However, attorneys and advocates across the country have experienced what seems like a complete moratorium on ICE bonds from most if not all ICE Field Offices.
In at least one case, attorneys and advocates learned that deportation officers brought large groups of Haitians together, who had been previously granted ICE bonds, and announced to them as a group that their ICE bonds were being revoked. No individualized reasons were given for this blanket revocation.
Trump’s Executive Order and the subsequent DHS memo have not only had a chilling effect on the use of parole and bond, but also mandated an end to so-called “catch and release.” Data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University shows that 61% of immigrants given NTAs under Trump have been detained, compared to 27% under Obama.
“What this means is that not only are more people being detained, but once they are detained, less people are being released,” explains Fialho. “This is why we are collectively demanding an immediate end to arbitrary, prolonged, and indiscriminate detention.”
CIVIC’s letter is signed by 207 individuals and organizations, including the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigrant Justice Center, International Rescue Committee, the Florence Project, and Detention Watch Network.
Download a copy of the letter here.