New Report Analyzes Increased Parole Denial of Asylum Seekers Under Trump Admin

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Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today released a report that finds that in the eight months since President Trump signed his January 25 executive order calling for increased immigration detention, asylum seekers are largely refused parole, leaving many locked up in immigration detention facilities and jails for months or longer. Today’s report, “Judge and Jailer,” comes days before the Supreme Court is set to hear the Jennings v. Rodriguez immigration detention case.

“President Trump’s executive order has caused many immigration officials to refuse to release asylum seekers from detention—even those who qualify for and should be released on parole,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “The administration’s costly and cruel policy of locking up asylum seekers in detention facilities and jails for months or longer violates U.S. human rights and refugee protection treaties as well as the Constitution. When the United States detains people who have fled persecution and oppression, holding them for months and longer without a fair hearing to determine if they actually need to be detained, we undermine human rights not only here at home, but also globally.”

On January 25, President Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of  Homeland Security (DHS) to construct and operate immigration detention facilities and hold immigrants there for the duration of their immigration court proceedings.  Then-Secretary John Kelly stated in his February 20 memorandum implementing the order that ICE’s Asylum Parole Directive was still “in full force and effect.” The government repeated this assertion to the Supreme Court one day later in a brief filed in the Jennings v. Rodriguez case. That case is slated to be argued before the Supreme Court next week.

The report’s findings include: 

  • ICE’s 2009 Asylum Parole Directive appears to exist merely on paper and not in practice in many detention locations.
  • Parole grants to asylum seekers appear to have plummeted in the wake of President Trump’s January 25 executive order at many detention facilities and jails—including in Illinois, Michigan, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Louisiana, and South Texas—with ICE now rarely, if ever, granting parole at these facilities. 
  • At other detention facilities and jails where parole grants were already rare, including in Arizona, New Jersey, and the Northwest, pro bono attorneys report that parole releases continue to be rare to non-existent.
  • Asylum seekers who are eligible for parole consideration under ICE’s 2009 ICE Asylum Parole Directive are often needlessly held in detention by ICE—for many months or longer—despite meeting the relevant release criteria. 

Examples in the report include: a gay man detained for fourteen months after fleeing his West African country, a torture survivor from Burkina Faso detained for seventeen months, a Cuban political opposition activist detained for seven months, a political activist from Singapore who was detained for seven months, a Honduran grandmother with two U.S. citizen relatives who was denied parole, and a Venezuelan human rights lawyer detained for nearly six months as of the release of this report. 

Human Rights First’s recommends: 

  • The Trump Administration should rescind executive orders and implementing memoranda that call for the use of immigration detention for the duration of proceedings and in other ways that violate U.S. refugee protection and human rights treaty commitments.  
  • DHS and the Department of Justice should revise regulatory language to provide immigration court custody hearings for arriving asylum seekers.
  • ICE must effectively implement the Asylum Parole Directive, releasing those who meet the parole criteria.
  • Congress should greatly reduce unnecessary immigration detention and reject legislative proposals that would make it even more difficult for asylum seekers to be released from detention

Not only are court hearings on detention legally required under U.S. treaties and constitutional protections, but given the long history of failure by U.S. immigration detention authorities to fairly, consistently, and effectively implement parole for asylum seekers, the safeguard of immigration court custody hearings is critical,” added Acer.

For more information or to speak with Acer contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.

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