A group of refugees from different parts of the globe has filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for illegally putting them in prison, where some were held for nearly two years.
The refugees recall going through the standard procedures for asylum applications, having passed their initial “credible fear” interviews upon arriving at the border. They were nonetheless detained.
Five of the refugee—the plaintiffs of the case—come from Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, and Sierra Leone. All five are currently held in detention centers in Texas—three at the Port Isabel Detention Center, one in Pearsall, and the other in Laredo.
The five speculate the “de facto policies” intended to discourage applications for political asylum in the U.S. may have been what brought authorities to detain them without due process.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys, who are with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, a nonprofit legal assistance group in Texas, said the defendants have acted with the intention of deterring asylum seekers, forcing them to either endure extended detention or go through the dangers of entering the U.S. through unlawful channels.
They point out that these are not, by nature, established policies and are, hence, de facto.
The Refugee Act of 1980 provides that people fleeing their countries for a credible, imminent threat may seek safety in the U.S. Refugees may apply for asylum at entry points in the country, where they are interviewed by an asylum officer to assess their individual situations and threats. Despite following protocol and being found to have credible fears, the plaintiffs were nevertheless detained.
ICE also has a policy in place guaranteeing parole to anyone seeking asylum on the condition that the asylee’s identity can be established and verified and that they do not present a flight risk or danger to the community.
However, ICE had also expanded its jail capacity in 2014, paving way for the increase of refugees the agency placed in detention – including mothers with children. According to the complaint, this had the purpose of further deterring others from seeking asylum in the US.
The case of the five plaintiffs, it appears, is not the first of its kind. In fact, President Donald Trump’s term began with a drastic increase in arbitrary arrests and parole denial. In May, hundreds of human rights organizations and advocates signed a letter addressed to ICE, which states:
“Denying parole or bond to families and individuals who are simply exercising their right to seek protection … is a gross injustice. The practice tears apart families and communities, and it has devastating impacts on an already traumatized population.”
ICE has yet to comment on the pending litigation. This, however, comes with a disclaimer from ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez, who writes “lack of comment should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations.”
If you, or a loved one, need assistance on your asylum application, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.