Joe Biden detained tens of thousands of asylum seekers last year

President Joe Biden Immigration policies at the US-Mexico border led to the prolonged detention of tens of thousands of asylum seekers last year, according to a new report from the rights group. Nearly all immigrants detained by the authorities during this period were taken into custody in a region where access to asylum has been largely closed since March 2020 and where anyone who seeks asylum outside a port of entry – a right enshrined in domestic and international law – is considered threat until proven otherwise.

Backed by nearly 300 individual accounts, 66 page reportpublished Thursday by Human Rights First describes activists, dissidents, student organizers and others fleeing persecution in dozens of countries only to languish for months in US detention centers.

The report documents the inhumane conditions in these centers; increased levels of racist and abusive treatment of black and LGBT+ asylum seekers; children in adult institutions; huge legal and economic challenges for those in detention; and the ongoing separation of families between the US and Mexico.

“Detention is inhuman, dangerous and cruel. … It fuels the division of the family and re-traumatizes people.”

“Detention is inhuman, dangerous and cruel,” Rebecca Gendelman, an assistant refugee defense lawyer at Human Rights First and lead author of the report, told Olx Praca. “It cuts off access to legal representation and information, preventing asylum seekers from fairly presenting their protection claims. Causes physical and psychological harm. This contributes to the separation of families and re-traumatizes people – including those who were detained, tortured, beaten and threatened by the governments of the countries from which they fled – and forces people to give up their demands.

The report comes out just a month before the Biden administration is expected to repeal Section 42. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule issued by the Trump administration in March 2020 – within objections from public health professionals in the agency – Section 42 was used for summary removal or refusal of most migrants, including asylum seekers, at and between official ports of entry. With the repeal of the ruling, lawyers and law enforcement officials expect a significant increase in the number of people trying to cross the border, and, as a result, an increase in the number of detentions.

A report by Human Rights First raises concerns that the Biden administration’s current enforcement priorities could mean more asylum seekers in U.S. detention centers in the coming months.

“As the Biden administration ends the illegal Section 42 policy and restores enforcement of the refugee law, it should not imprison the asylum seekers it processes in the United States—it should give them a proper welcome,” Gendelman said. “The government should work with NGOs to create a humanitarian reception system for asylum seekers arriving at the border.”

Asylum seekers hug next to the US border wall while waiting for CBP processing in Yuma, Arizona February 21, 2022.

Photo: Cathy McTiernan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The report carefully examines enforcement priorities, which Biden first implemented as temporary measures a month after taking office. In September, the priorities were officially announced in memo that the head of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement ordered staff to “use our discretion and focus our law enforcement resources in a more focused manner”.

Biden vowed to break with his predecessor on immigration issues. pointing to separating former President Donald Trump’s families at the border as a “criminal” act that “violates every notion of who we are as a nation.” His shift in priorities did mark a change—Trump made almost every undocumented immigrant in the country an equal priority for deportation—but it also contained an important caveat for the border itself: any “non-citizen who poses a threat to border security” was still considered a “priority for detention and removal.

Under this concept, “border security threat” means any person arrested while attempting to illegally enter the country at a port of entry, or any person detained in the United States without permission to remain in the country after November 1, 2020. mitigation or mitigation of facts and circumstances” and officials are encouraged to “evaluate the totality of facts and circumstances and make their judgment accordingly”. Biden’s priorities do not include general exclusions for any groups.

According to Human Rights First, US immigration officials used border security priority to justify detaining asylum seekers as a matter of course. “In December 2021, an ICE officer confirmed to Human Rights First that ICE is imprisoning people arriving at the border in accordance with the enforcement priorities guide,” the report said, adding that the priorities were also used to deny the release of asylum seekers due to under guard. .

The report notes that it is difficult to ascertain exactly how many asylum seekers the Biden administration imprisoned because ICE has not provided data in a timely or consistent manner for several years, despite being required by law. The Customs and Border Protection has its own detention centers close to the border.

CBP detainees are usually released on parole, deported, or transferred to the nationwide ICE prison network for further processing of their immigration case. If they apply for asylum, these people are entitled to a so-called “confidential fear interview” to give an initial assessment of their case. Human Rights First concluded that there were “tens of thousands” of asylum seekers detained under Biden, most of them taken into custody at the border, by extrapolating available data related to these interviews.

“We are aware that since February 2021, more than 66,000 asylum seekers have been referred for credible fear interviews,” Gendelman said. “Typically, the vast majority of credible fear interviews take place in detention facilities, and we also know that the vast majority of people who were placed in ICE custody during the Biden administration came from CBP custody.”

Average, asylum seekers interviewed by Human Rights First spent nearly four months in detention, although many were jailed for up to 10 months or more. These included “a Nicaraguan asylum seeker who was detained for three months and denied parole as a ‘border security’ priority; a Venezuelan asylum seeker living with HIV has been imprisoned for nearly five months; and an Angolan human rights defender who was detained for eight months despite his wife and children living in the United States on asylum claims,” the report says.

According to Human Rights First, asylum seekers imprisoned by the Biden administration often remained in detention even after credible fears of persecution were confirmed in their interviews with US immigration officials.

“While the total number of asylum seekers detained after receiving a positive fear report has dropped significantly in recent months, government data shows that asylum seekers held in ICE custody who confirmed a fear of persecution have been imprisoned by an average of 10 .75 months (326.8 days). as of the end of March 2022,” the report says. “False negative determinations and months of delays in conducting fear surveys have resulted in many others being detained.”

The report documents significant financial hurdles for asylum seekers in detention, with the average immigration bail in fiscal year 2021 set at nearly $10,000, and in some cases as high as $100,000. The report notes that the fact of being in prison, combined with the lack of guaranteed access to a lawyer, significantly limits an asylum seeker’s ability to gain meaningful access to the legal system to present their case.

Yuma Border Crossing In Arizona

Asylum seekers board a bus for transportation to the immigration center after crossing the US-Mexico border in Yuma, Arizona February 21, 2022.

Photo: Cathy McTiernan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Inside detention Within the centers themselves, Human Rights First found “horrific violence and abuse,” including “asylum seekers thrown into solitary confinement without clothes after a suicide attempt and denied access to a shower, toilet paper and toothbrush for 21 days; a Mexican transgender asylum seeker who was sexually assaulted after ICE placed him in a facility that did not match his gender identity and was forced to request close to 24 hours of solitary confinement for his own safety; and a Brazilian asylum seeker who was verbally abused by a therapist while seeking psychiatric help.”

“Several underage children were illegally held in adult detention facilities, despite the fact that they presented documents confirming their age.”

According to the report, “several minor children were unlawfully placed in adult detention facilities despite showing proof of their age.”

Asylum seekers from black-majority countries were treated particularly badly, spending 27 percent more time in prison and facing stricter release requirements than other detainees. “In one case, ICE staff explicitly stated that they were ordered to release Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans in order to create additional places of detention, while ICE simultaneously held a large number of Haitian asylum seekers and migrants in the same institution,” the report said. .

Human Rights First has documented several isolated cases of mistreatment of blacks in immigrant detention facilities. According to the report, correctional officers forcibly cut off asylum seekers’ braids or strands, and racist comments were directed at black asylum seekers that referred to slavery and lynching.

Instead of prioritizing “border security threats” for asylum seekers, Human Rights First is pushing for “alternative to detention” programs that would link these individuals to a lawyer outside of prison. Such programs have proven to be highly effective in ensuring that asylum seekers are present at court hearings. BUT 2021 research The American Immigration Board found that 96% of undetained immigrants represented by an attorney attended all of their hearings from 2008 to 2018. “Alternative to Detention” programs are also significantly cheaper than the current model.

“Putting asylum seekers in jail is not only cruel, but also unnecessary and wasteful,” Gendelman said. “The Biden administration should instead use humane, proven community-based support to welcome asylum seekers and let them go about their business while living in US communities. Detaining them is a cruel choice, and a more expensive one, too.”