Immigrant Rights Groups Demand Timely Bond Hearings and Legal Protections for Asylum Seekers

migrant familiesPlaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit challenging the federal government’s targeted efforts to deter and obstruct asylum seekers seeking protection in the United States have filed a motion for preliminary injunction demanding timely bond hearings that comport with due process.

The motion was filed in Padilla v. ICE in federal district court in Seattle, Washington by plaintiffs on behalf of a proposed nationwide class of asylum seekers who are detained after entering the United States. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Immigration Council represent the plaintiffs and proposed class members.

Plaintiffs are asking the court to order the government to provide qualifying individuals with bona fide asylum claims a bond hearing before an immigration judge within seven days of their request. Currently, there is no specified timeline and some asylum seekers languish for weeks or months before appearing in front of an immigration judge.

In addition, plaintiffs seek an order requiring basic due process protections in the bond hearing, including that immigration judges record the hearings and make individualized findings if they deny release. Despite the fact that immigration courts record all other types of immigration hearings, they do not record bond hearings. Moreover, when an immigration judge denies release, she or he simply marks an “X” on a form and does not state the basis for the decision, leaving asylum seekers with no way to assess the basis for appeal. And, unlike other custody hearings involving civil detention, the immigration court does not require the government to justify continued detention, but instead places the burden on the detained asylum seeker to demonstrate that she or he should be released.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that civil detention cannot be used as a punitive measure,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “Yet, the manner in which the federal government conducts these bond hearings demonstrates that they are being weaponized, imposing prolonged detention and suffering on asylum seekers in a concerted effort to block their asylum applications.”

“Locking people up for weeks or months after they have proven that they have bona fide asylum claim and then denying them a fair and transparent release process is contrary to fundamental pillars of the American judicial system,” said Trina Realmuto, directing attorney at the American Immigration Council.  “We are asking the court to end these injustices and guarantee a fair process.”

The motion for preliminary injunctive relief can be read here, as well as the amended complaint, the motion for class certification, and the government’s motion to dismiss.

Number of migrant children held by government reaches new high

immigrant child in custodyDespite a court order instructing the Trump administration to reunite migrant families who were forcibly separated at the US-Mexico border, The New York Times reports that the number of children still in custody has reached a record high level. The Times reports that there are currently 12,800 migrant children in federally-contracted shelters this month, five times as many since last summer, when 2,400 children were being held. Most of the children did not have their parents with them when they crossed the border. The information was shared with members of Congress, who in turn shared it with the Times. 

Video: Traumatized children at the border

migrant familiesIn June, a Honduran woman seeking asylum in the US and her five-year-old son were forcibly separated at the Mexican border. A pro bono lawyer, Jodi Goodwin, helped reunite them after they spent a month apart. The Atlantic has produced a documentary called The Separated that shows the chaos and trauma caused by migrant families being torn apart.

American Immigration Council Condemns Administration’s Proposal to Indefinitely Detain Children

immigrant child in custodySeptember 6, 2018

Washington, D.C.— Today, the Trump administration proposed new regulations that could lead to the indefinite detention—and needless suffering—of asylum-seeking children. The new guidelines are related to the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which concerns the care and custody of immigrant children. Although these proposed regulations are supposed to ensure the appropriate treatment of children, instead, they would weaken protections for children and place them at greater risk of trauma and mistreatment.

The following statement is from Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council:

“Under the Flores settlement, all children must be treated with ‘dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors,’ but these new regulations would do the opposite. The federal government’s proposal would expand family detention, lock up parents and children indefinitely, and hold them in unsafe conditions. From our hands-on work providing legal services to detained families through the Dilley Pro Bono Project, we have seen the indecency and serious harm caused by detaining children. And we know, after witnessing the trauma-inducing practice of family separation, child welfare has never been a priority for this administration. This proposal is further evidence of that fact.”

“The manner in which this administration treats migrant children shocks the conscience. Harsh treatment of children must never be the solution. There are viable alternatives to detention that are more humane, less costly, and just as effective at ensuring people comply with their obligations as they face removal proceedings.”

Eligible DACA recipients urged to renew applications

ICE agents immigrationFollowing an August 31st ruling by a federal judge in Texas not to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, immigrants who have qualified for DACA are being urged to renew their applications to stay in the country, even as uncertainty about DACA’s future remains. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center says the latest ruling by District Judge Andrew Hanen follows three previous judicial orders for the government to continue to accept DACA applications. While current DACA recipients can continue to renew their statuses, ILRC says the future of the program will remain murky until Congress can pass legislation addressing the issue.

Podcast: The attorney’s role in workers’ comp

workers compEmployees who file workers’ compensation claims for the first time are often bewildered by the process, the paperwork, and how to deal with it while recovering from an on-the-job accident. Fortunately, workers’ comp attorneys are there to help them navigate the process. In this edition of Workers’ Comp Matters from the Legal Talk Network, host Alan Pierce talks to Arizona workers’ comp attorney Robert Wisniewski about why people sometimes need legal help when filing claims.

Estate dilemma: Giving up inheritance for spite

Dividing up estates after a loved one’s death can sometimes bring out the worst in family members. A woman whose brother and sister aren’t speaking to her any more and won’t let her in her mother’s house wrote to The Moneyist at Marketwatch looking for guidance. The woman says her sister wrote herself a $20,000 check before their mother died, and now claims a life estate in their mother’s house. She’s so frustrated that she says she’s willing to give up her inheritance. Is that a smart move? Find out why not at The Moneyist.

New ABA president goes to South Texas to help reunite families

TexasAfter traveling to South Texas to see firsthand how the Trump administration’s family separation policy was affecting migrants seeking to enter the US, American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass promised to help reunite families and make sure they received due process. Now, new ABA President Robert Carlson is joining the effort, going to South Texas himself to work pro bono to help asylum seekers as part of the ABA’s commitment.

“The [ABA’s] policy supports protection of our borders, but in a fair and humane way,” says Carlson, of Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson in Butte, Montana. “We want to make sure that people get the due process that they’re entitled to under the Constitution.”

Read more about the ABA’s work to reunite migrant families here. 

Podcast: Holding migrants in federal prisons without charges

jailAs part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, some migrants seeking asylum in America are ending up in a federal prison in Oregon. That has resulted in lawsuits being brought on behalf of these asylum-seekers. Attorneys say the government is illegally detaining them. Hundreds are being held in prisons despite the fact that they haven’t been charged with crimes. Hear more about the issues in this podcast from NPR.

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