ACLU to court: Rein in ICE and save asy­lum seek­ers

New York Daily News - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union asked a fed­eral court Thurs­day to in­ter­vene on be­half of asy­lum seek­ers, say­ing they are be­ing un­fairly de­tained while they await hear­ings be­fore an im­mi­gra­tion judge.

The ACLU law­suit al­leges that Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment had be­gun ig­nor­ing its own guide­lines since Don­ald Trump be­came Pres­i­dent and is now un­nec­es­sar­ily de­tain­ing prospec­tive asy­lum seek­ers for months.

All im­mi­grants seek­ing asy­lum must ini­tially pass a “cred­i­ble fear” screen­ing to de­ter­mine if they face a threat of per­se­cu­tion in their home coun­tries. Those who fail that stan­dard are de­ported im­me­di­ately.

Pre­vi­ously, those who passed were usu­ally given hu­man­i­tar­ian pa­role while await­ing an im­mi­gra­tion hear­ing, pro­vided that they were not con­sid­ered flight risks or dan­gers to the pub­lic.

ACLU lawyer Michael Tan told a fed­eral judge Thurs­day that the num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers granted such pa­role has dropped to nearly zero in five key ICE field of­fices: Detroit; El Paso, Texas; Los Angeles; Ne­wark, and Philadel­phia.

Com­par­a­tively, he said, in 2013, 90% of asy­lum seek­ers from these field of­fices were re­leased while await­ing im­mi­gra­tion hear­ings.

Tan called it “im­plau­si­ble” that such a drop could have hap­pened or­gan­i­cally and asked the court to com­pel ICE to fol­low its own di­rec­tives.

“There needs to be an ac­count­abil­ity mech­a­nism . . . to en­sure that ICE is ful­fill­ing its obli­ga­tions,” he said.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the gov­ern­ment de­nied any whole­sale pol­icy shift and said they were look­ing into the mat­ter.

Genevieve Kelly said that the five ICE field of­fices that Tan men­tioned were “out­liers” and that the agency must be al­lowed to make its own de­ter­mi­na­tions on a case-by-case ba­sis with­out in­ter­fer­ence.

“The rea­sons for de­nial (of hu­man­i­tar­ian pa­role) have to re­main dis­cre­tionary,” she said.

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