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09/30/15 | Coercion and Intimidation of Detained Mothers and Children Must Stop

Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, submitted the latest in a series of formal complaints to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG), this one documenting intimidation, misinformation and violations of the right to counsel at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

The complaint describes how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are using coercive tactics to force detained mothers to accept electronic ankle monitors as a condition of release and forfeit their right to pursue bond hearings before immigration judges. The complaint documents case after case of ICE employing unlawful tactics to intimidate detained mothers and thereby prevent them from asserting their rights. These tactics include blocking attorneys from accessing their clients during compulsory ICE questioning, threatening to withhold medical care for children if mothers choose to seek bond hearings instead of accepting ankle monitors, and threatening mothers with deportation if they raise concerns or inquire about the status of their cases.

The affidavits recount instances where ICE officers:

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09/29/15 | USCIS “Do-Over” of Visa Bulletin Undercuts Administration’s Goal of Visa Modernization

Washington D.C. - As the result of a grave error made by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just days ago, thousands of noncitizens who had expected to apply to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence in October will continue to face lengthy waits before they can submit their applications. The new filing dates, which translate to longer wait-times, were made public late last Friday through an “updated” October Visa Bulletin

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09/18/15 | Obama Administration Again Hands Families Over to Private Prison Company

Washington, DC – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, responded to the news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had awarded a private prison company the grant to establish a new case management alternative to detention initiative for families.

Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director of RAICES stated, “Based on how our staff and volunteers have seen GEO treat mothers and children incarcerated at their facility in Karnes City, Texas, this award seems to exemplify the uncaring and inhumane attitude the Obama Administration holds toward the mothers and children fleeing violence and persecution in Central America. The administration keeps finding ways to hand over control of a vulnerable population to a private prison company. We very much fear the end result will be harm to these families and their claims to protection under our laws.”

Jeanne Atkinson, Executive Director of CLINIC added, “We applaud the idea of a family case management program which would allow mothers to pursue their claims without being detained and, often, separated from their families and unable to access adequate medical care and legal services. However, the selection of GEO, a corrections and detention corporation, to care for vulnerable migrant women and their young children is ill-conceived. GEO does not have the legal or social case management expertise, nor trust of the immigrant community to successfully implement this program. How are we to believe that an organization that doesn't treat traumatized women and children with empathy and compassion inside the facility will do so outside of it?”

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09/10/15 | Five Incarcerated Refugee Families Finally Released After Being Held for Months on End

Washington, DC – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, responded to Friday’s release of five families who had been subjected to many months of incarceration despite repeated efforts to advocate for their release pending the adjudication of their claims for protection in the United States. 

Michelle Mendez, CLINIC's CARA Project Coordinator stated, “More than 13 months ago, the first of these five families was detained in a temporary facility in Artesia, New Mexico. In those ensuing months, the Artesia facility closed, but this refuge-seeking mother and child were not released. Instead, they were shuttled to another remote family detention facility in Dilley, Texas. It was here that they bravely continued to seek protection under our laws and attempted to access what justice they could from within a securitized detention facility. Now, finally, they have been released and can pursue their legal claims in a meaningful way with the assistance of their families and the support of their community and church.”

“This was not a situation where people just slipped through the cracks, and the government fixed the problem after discovering its mistake,” noted Melissa Crow, Legal Director for the American Immigration Council. She continued, “CARA Project volunteers represented most of these mothers and children every step of the way, filing additional petitions and even damages claims in some cases. Our advocacy staff repeatedly raised concerns surrounding the traumatic impact of detention on the mental and physical health of children and their mothers. Our calls went unheeded until now.”

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08/24/15 | Court Orders Prompt Release of Immigrant Children from Family Detention

Washington, D.C. - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) welcome a decision released Friday evening by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Flores v. Lynch, No. 85-04544 (C.D.Ca.), which ruled that children should generally be released from detention within five days—preferably to a parent, including a parent with whom they were apprehended. The government must implement the Court’s ruling by October 23, 2015.

“There is no denying that the government has breached the Flores settlement agreement. The status quo is unacceptable, and the government must take immediate and dramatic steps to end family detention,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. “Our CARA Project* staff and volunteers submitted numerous declarations to the Court showing how the government is still detaining accompanied minors in secure, unlicensed facilities. It can no longer hide from the American people the ugly truth of how it treats children fleeing persecution,” said Nieblas. “Just as striking is how the Court condemned the ‘deplorable’ conditions in temporary border jails.  They do not meet even minimal standards for safe and sanitary conditions,” said Nieblas.

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08/07/15 | DOJ's Shameful Attempt to Pretty up Family Detention Comes up Woefully Short

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) are outraged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) response to U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling on the mass incarceration of children and mothers seeking asylum in the U.S. 

Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President, stated, “The response from DOJ to Judge Gee’s recent ruling is no more than bad play-acting at compliance. Truly, they should be embarrassed to submit such a document to a court of law. Ever since Judge Gee first threatened her order, the Administration has been scrambling to quickly release some of the mothers and children, and they’ve bungled the process badly, leaving in detention many women and children who have been locked up way too long. The government’s protest that ‘we’ve fixed things, we promise’ rings hollow when the sharp light of reality shines on the detention centers. Our volunteer attorneys on the ground with the CARA* project see the truth every day, and know that it is not reflected in this shameful document. They know, and have submitted case after case to ICE, of the children and mothers confined for extended periods, waiting for someone to act on their cases. This injustice must end.” 

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07/30/15 | Deplorable Medical Treatment at Family Detention Centers

Washington, DC — Today, ten mothers came forward to lodge formal complaints about the substandard medical care they and their children received while detained by the Department of Homeland of Security (DHS). The complaints describe the severe suffering families have endured due to poor access to and quality of care, and questionable medical ethics. These ten complaints are representative of the regular failures of DHS to provide adequate medical care for mothers and children in family detention facilities, and they add to the already ample evidence demonstrating why family detention must end.

The deplorable medical treatment described in the complaints include:

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07/27/15 | Incarcerated Children and Mothers Denied Due Process and Critical Information Before Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to account for the cascade of due process violations and detrimental practices at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas.

The four organizations jointly provide legal services to mothers and children detained in Dilley and Karnes, Texas, through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, and over the past weeks CARA staff and volunteers have witnessed ICE officials coercing women into accepting ankle monitors, denying access to legal counsel and impeding pro bono representation, along with mass disorganization and confusion in implementing the new release policy for mothers who fled violence and who are pursuing protection in the United States. The need to resolve these issues is all the more crucial given last week’s court order in the Flores case, which should mean that the remaining families will be released. The federal judge found that the government’s family detention practices violate the Flores settlement, which ensures that children are treated properly.

The concerns detailed in the letter include:

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07/25/15 | Judge Stands Up for Refugee Families, Castigates Government for Policies That Traumatize Children

Washington, DC – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council) welcomed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee that should signal the end of the mass incarceration of children and mothers seeking asylum in the U.S. 

“After months of negotiations between the plaintiffs and the government stalled, Judge Gee again evaluated whether the government was meeting the terms of the original Flores settlement and ensuring the proper care of children in its custody. The final word on that is no, it most certainly is not. The government is not living up to its obligations,” said Victor Nieblas Pradis, AILA President. He continued, “While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) scrambled over the past few weeks to implement plans to potentially help them fend off this decision, the judge felt strongly that those plans were not sufficient. The judge noted that, even assuming the new policy complies with the Flores agreement, there is no guarantee that DHS and ICE won’t abruptly change the policy again. From everything being reported by attorneys volunteering for the CARA* project at the Dilley detention center, the new policies are in fact depriving mothers of due process and causing confusion and outright fear.”

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07/21/15 | Practical, Comprehensive Immigration Solutions Promote Public Safety

Washington D.C. - Since the tragic murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco this month, there has been a flood of criticism leveled against state and city policies that limit local involvement in immigration enforcement and questions raised about whether the federal government is doing enough to enforce the immigration laws. Congress has scheduled two hearings this week to explore these issues, and we share legislators’ desire to find solutions. At the same time, we caution that anecdotes are no substitute for hard data and that our laws and policies must be grounded in analysis of the facts, thoughtful discussion, and practical solutions.

For too long, U.S. immigration laws and policies have been shaped by fear and stereotype rather than by empirical evidence. Empirical data shows that immigration is associated with lower crime rates and immigrants are less likely than the native-born to be serious criminals. Yet, we have spent billions of dollars deporting millions of people who have committed only immigration violations, and we have focused on quantity, not quality of deportations, while separating families. 

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