Central American families encounter overwhelming obstacles to due process in detention; for example, the process of expedited removal places families who are eligible for asylum at risk of deportation. Although refugees in removal proceedings have the right to legal aid, nearly 40% of all detention facilities are located 60 miles or from a metro area (Human Rights First, 2011). Because its difficult to access legal services, roughly 84% of women and children face their removal proceedings without representation (Srikantiah, Hausman, & Weissman-Ward, 2015).
Although the immigration judge and opposing counsel are bligated to educate detainees on the asylum process, this seldom occurs. In addition to expedited removal, restricted phone access also presents a challenge to due process. Although the U. S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintains that detainees are guaranteed telephone communication with legal representatives, detainees have difficulty accessing legal counsel; for example, detention staff often restrict telephone access to evening hours and refuse to relay phone messages from attorneys (Grisez, 2015).
Furthermore, facilities often charge costly telephone rates (e. . $13 for a 15 minute call) that prevent detainees from accessing legal aid (Miranda, 2014). High immigration bonds also impede due processes. Although some women and children are released on bond within a relatively short time, many families remain in detention because they cannot afford to pay bonds that typically range from $7,500 to $15,000 (Gerisch, 2015). High bonds may be appropriate for dangerous criminals, but these detainees are innocent women and children who do not pose a threat to the United States.
Barriers to Pursue Asylum Central American women and children fleeing violence and ersecution frequently encounter barriers to the asylum process. To proceed with the asylum process, refugees must pass a “credible fear interview” (CFI): a lengthy interview conducted by U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that is used to establish if an individual has credible fear of returning to their homeland (Campos & Friedland, 2014). Because this process is difficult to navigate without legal aid, families may not comprehend how a CFI may qualify them for asylum.
CFI’s become more challenging when held in public spaces; women are hesitant to reveal the violent details in front f children and other detainees. Moreover, asylum officers have been known to rush CFI’s; for example, Lincoln-Goldfinch (2014) reports that she provided legal services to approximately 100 women in the Karnes facility and 95% failed-many who were undoubtedly eligible for asylum. This information suggests that asylum officers don’t comply with interview standards and lack the skills required to work with refugees.
Current Immigration Policies Due to the influx of Central American women and children, President Obama launched “an aggressive deterrence strategy” on both sides of the southern border (Obama, 2014). Additionally, DHS dramatically expanded its family detention facilities, which resulted in an average daily detainee population of 26, 374 people (Obama, 2014). Detention facilities have been labeled “family detention facilities,” falsely imply that environments are safe and welcoming; however, women and children are held in prison-like quarters and criminalized (Abrego, 2015).
The practice of detaining women and children in penal facilities is clearly inappropriate and violates international standards. Family detention must end immediately. RILR v. Johnson In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a ationwide class-action lawsuit in behalf of three Central American families who were eligible for asylum, yet were detained as part of President Obama’s “aggressive deterrence strategy” (American Civil Liberties Union, 2015).
Although Judge James Boasberg ruled that it is unlawful to detain families based on deterrence, DHS continues to detain these families under false justifications (Garnett-McKenzie, 2015). Custody determinations should depend on accurate assessments. Individuals should only be held in detention facilities only if they pose a threat to the community or are a flight-risk. 1951 Refugee Convention The Obama Administration’s effort to deter migration by means of expedited removal denies families their right to pursue asylum.
The 1951 Refugee Convention maintains that states should not force refugees to return to their homelands if they are at risk for being physically harmed or killed (UN General Assembly, 1951). The U. S. immigration system often violates this treaty by denying women and children a fair CFl and deporting them to their homeland, which may result in death. Matter of A-R-C-G Central America has some of the highest rates of femicide in the world, and many of the Central American women arriving at he southern border have escaped domestic violence (Yagoub, 2016).
In August 2014, the case of Matter of A-R-C-G became a defining moment for domestic violence victims; the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recognized that victims of domestic violence are protected from deportation if they have credible fear of persecution (Harvard Law Review, 2015). The barriers faced by asylum-seeking women are contrary to BIA’s ruling, international law, and domestic asylum regulations. Convention on the Rights of a Child The incarceration of children in detention facilities undermines the most fundamental right protected in the Convention on the
Rights of a Child-the best interest of the child principle; the Convention states, “in all actions concerning children… the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration” (UN General Assembly, 1989). The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)-the UN body that aims to protect the human rights of children-asserts that children are a vulnerable population and their needs take priority over any interests of the state (UN Committee on the Rights of a Child, 2005). Moreover, children who have been traumatized should be provided protection in the United States and exempt from removal proceedings. 97 Flores Settlement Agreement The volume of Central American children arriving to the United States continues to rise and there are few polices in place to protect them. The 1997 Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement is one of the few proclamations that protect refugee children; the agreement stipulates that children should not be confined to prison-like environments (Lopez, 2012). Because refugee children are a vulnerable population, it is of the utmost importance that these children are treated humanely.
Instead, children are held in spaces that restrict access to essential eeds: books, education, culturally-appropriate food, and time outdoors (Sakuma, 2014). Although the Flores agreement should have signified the end of detaining children, the U. S. government has exacerbated the problem. Recommendations Immigration detention continues to expand across the United States; the Obama Administration has agreed to accept up to 85,000 refugees over the span of the 2016 federal fiscal year (Foley, 2016).
Women and children arriving at detention facilities have brought attention to the poor living conditions and barriers they encounter in the asylum seeking process. Having reviewed the detention operations in combination with the existing immigration policies that target families, I recommend the following revisions to detention standards: • The U. S. government should discon facilities for detaining families and establish a system of facilities that promote a safe, healing environment. e the use of penal facilities should employ a well-trained, competent workforce that is qualified to address the psychosocial needs of detainees (e. g. clinical social workers).
•Family detention facilities should allow refugee families to remain united with no threat of eparation for the duration of their stay; however, ` separation should be permitted for individuals to access educational programs, recreation activities, health services, and legal services. DHS should only detain refugee families who pose risks to communities; families should be released into more human community-based alternatives to detention (ATD). • Asylum officers who conduct CFI’s should receive proper training for working with victims of persecution and violence. They should also provide a fair and thorough CFI. • The U. S government should appointed counsel to refugee families so hey can gain a better understanding of their legal rights and increase their eligibility of asylum.
Conclusion The detention of refugee families violates the United States legal commitment to international human rights law. The women and children who have crossed the southern border have fled extreme violence; incarcerating these families and subjecting them to harsh conditions threatens their wellbeing. Refugee families should be released to community-based ATD’s so they can access the legal services and community support they need while awating their court appearance. The use of family detention is inhumane and must end now.