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AILA Details Necessary Steps to Guarantee Due Process to Refugees and Asylum Seekers

CONTACTS:
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org
Belle Woods
202-507-7675
bwoods@aila.org

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) released a new report entitled Due Process Denied: Central Americans Seeking Asylum and Legal Protection in the United States detailing the violations of due process stemming from the recent raids targeting Central American refugees and asylum seekers. The report provides recommendations for reforms that would ensure just and fair consideration for these vulnerable populations under U.S. law.

"The response thus far from the Obama Administration to the refugee situation in Central America has been abysmal. Immigration authorities are detaining and unduly fast-tracking the deportations of women with their children, girls and boys, single adults, and entire families fleeing to escape an epidemic of violence in their countries," said AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis. He continued, "The government should never force those fleeing persecution back to danger and death. Yet, that's exactly what the federal government did and is still doing. Our country is better than this. We can, and must, do better than this, and that begins with ensuring due process for every individual who comes to our country seeking protection."

The report draws upon the work of hundreds of AILA members through both the Artesia Pro Bono Project in New Mexico and the CARA Family Detention Project in Texas, projects which combined have represented thousands of detained families. The report describes six areas where changes can and must be made to ensure that the immigration system actually offers a meaningful chance for asylum seekers to claim protection. The report urges the administration to implement the following solutions to restore due process and protection:

  • Border processing: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must improve conditions and processing at U.S. border stations to ensure migrants are screened in a careful and humane fashion and given information about their legal rights and responsibilities.
  • Fast-track removals: DHS must suspend the use of expedited removal and reinstatement of removal, and return to using immigration courts to adjudicate these cases.
  • Family detention: DHS must end family detention and invest instead in cost-effective, community-based case management alternatives to detention that are more humane and will reduce costs while increasing compliance.
  • Access to counsel: Congress must guarantee legal counsel to every individual facing removal who cannot afford counsel. As an interim step, the relevant government agencies must take steps to ensure counsel is appointed for all children, families, and other vulnerable individuals, and in cases where the appointment of counsel is necessary to ensure fair adjudication.
  • Immigration courts: Congress and the Department of Justice (DOJ) must ensure the immigration court system has the funding and capacity to adjudicate cases effectively and protect due process.
  • Asylum system: The asylum system must be reformed to ensure efficient and consistent adjudication of asylum claims and remove unfair procedural rules that block meritorious asylum claims from even being heard.

AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson noted, "The reality is that the underlying conditions in the Northern Triangle need to be addressed. So, in addition to the recommendations AILA is making to the U.S. government, we also strongly urge Central American countries to offer real protection for vulnerable individuals. However, given the continued absence of such protection, the U.S. needs to step up and implement a humanitarian relief program that actually helps the thousands of terrified families and individuals who deserve to be safe."

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 16061567.