As children and their families flee extreme violence in Central America, our government has failed to offer critical protection by deferring their asylum requests. Instead, families are being confined to detention centers.
What is family detention, and who is being held?
Family detention is the practice of holding immigrant families with their children in prison-like detention centers. These families are largely asylum-seekers, fleeing their homes from extreme cases of violence, domestic and sexual assault, and gang and police abuse in search of international protection.
Why are families detained?
The Department of Homeland Security maintains that the detention of families coming from Central America is necessary to “deter” others from making the same journey. However, the prospect of detention will not deter those who are fleeing for their lives and seeking safety for their children. Immigration detention has the very narrow purpose of ensuring that people facing deportation comply with court dates and court orders, but it is not the only way to ensure compliance.
Do asylum-seekers have rights?
Yes. Asylum-seekers have rights under both international and U.S. law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the United States is a signatory, states, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Currently, asylum seekers are being turned away at our borders, both at and between ports of entry. Section 208 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act allows people to apply for asylum no matter how they entered the United States. Prosecuting asylum seekers for their manner of entry violates U.S. obligations under the Refugee Convention and Protocol.
Furthermore, prosecuted asylum-seekers currently face rushed sentencing in an “assembly line” court, and often have little to no opportunity to gather evidence of credible fear for their cases.
Additionally, while President Trump’s recent Executive Order halts family separation, it allows the continuance of indefinite family detention, in which both children and their families will be held for indefinite lengths of time. This condition undermines the Flores agreement, which dictates that migrant children may not be held for longer than 20 days in government detention facilities.
What are the alternatives to family detention?
There are many alternatives to detention, such as bond, the use of electronic ankle monitors, and parole-based supervision. Alternatives to detention that are currently used boast high compliance rates and cost, on average, about $6 per day, per person. Family detention, in contrast, costs the U.S. $161.36 per day, per person.
What can you do to help?
These vulnerable children and their families need your immediate help. Please consider one of the following:
- Call your elected officials to speak out against family separation and family detention.
- Donate to LIRS to help us address the most urgent needs facing children and their families.
- Consider becoming a foster parent to an unaccompanied child .
- Get involved in detention visitation in your local community.
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