Or­der from Barr with­holds bail to asy­lum-seek­ers

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Michael D. Shear and Katie Ben­ner

WASH­ING­TON – The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion Tues­day took an­other sig­nif­i­cant step to dis­cour­age migrants from seek­ing asy­lum, is­su­ing an or­der that could keep thou­sands of them in jail in­def­i­nitely while they wait for a res­o­lu­tion of their asy­lum re­quests.

In an ef­fort to de­liver on Pres­i­dent Trump’s prom­ise to end “catch and re­lease” at the bor­der, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr’s or­der di­rected im­mi­gra­tion judges to no longer al­low some migrants who have sought asy­lum to post bail.

The or­der will not go into ef­fect for 90 days, and is all but cer­tain to be chal­lenged in fed­eral court. Im­mi­grant-rights lawyers said it could un­der­mine the ba­sic rights of peo­ple seek­ing safety in the United States.

“They want to send a mes­sage that you will get de­tained,” said Judy Rabi­novitz, deputy di­rec­tor of the Im­mi­grants Rights Project at the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union. “It’s re­ally ob­scene. We are talk­ing about peo­ple who are flee­ing for their lives, seek­ing safety. And our re­sponse is just lock them up.”

For more than a decade, migrants who are deemed to have a “cred­i­ble fear” of per­se­cu­tion in their home coun­tries have been al­lowed to re­quest a bond hear­ing so they can be re­leased on bail while they wait for their asy­lum cases to be heard, some­times months or years later.

A fed­eral judge in Wash­ing­ton state this month af­firmed the rights of in­di­vid­u­als with a bona fide claim for asy­lum, say­ing they must be given the op­por­tu­nity to seek bail within seven days of a re­quest.

But Barr’s or­der came in a case in­volv­ing an In­dian man who crossed into the United States from Mex­ico and claimed asy­lum. Barr, ex­er­cis­ing his au­thor­ity as the top of­fi­cial over­see­ing the im­mi­gra­tion courts, said that migrants in sim­i­lar cases do not have the right to bail.

Such an im­mi­grant, “af­ter es­tab­lish­ing a cred­i­ble fear of per­se­cu­tion or tor­ture is in­el­i­gi­ble for re­lease on bond,” Barr wrote in his or­der, which over­rules a pre­vi­ous Board of Im­mi­gra­tion Ap­peals case from 2005.

A mi­grant seek­ing asy­lum could still ask the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity to be re­leased un­der a grant of pa­role, but that is en­tirely at the dis­cre­tion of the depart­ment, which has sharply cut back on such re­leases.

Barr’s de­ci­sion does not af­fect migrants ap­ply­ing for asy­lum at one of the two dozen ports of en­try along the bor­der with Mex­ico. It af­fects peo­ple who are ap­pre­hended af­ter they cross into the U.S. il­le­gally in the of­ten vast, ru­ral stretches of the bor­der.

Barr’s or­der is the lat­est ef­fort by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­duce the num­ber of im­mi­grants who are able to seek pro­tec­tion from vi­o­lence, poverty and gangs by ask­ing for le­gal sta­tus in the United States.

At a re­cent cam­paign rally, Trump said that some asy­lum claims were a “big fat con job” and that migrants were met at the bor­der by lawyers ea­ger to press those claims. In warn­ing of the com­ing crack­down, the pres­i­dent said, “I’m not play­ing games.”

Trump has re­duced the num­ber of refugees who can be ac­cepted each year. He has slowed the pro­cess­ing of asy­lum re­quests at ports of en­try. And he has or­dered that some asy­lum­seek­ers be re­quired to wait in Mex­ico, rather than in the United States, while their cases are heard.

Of­fi­cials say the goal of the hard­line ap­proach is to de­ter migrants from try­ing to come to the United States in the first place. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies – some of which have been blocked in the courts – have failed to stem the tide of ar­rivals in re­cent months.

A surge of migrants from Cen­tral Amer­ica, many of whom are fam­i­lies trav­el­ing with small chil­dren, has over­whelmed the Bor­der Pa­trol and other au­thor­i­ties in com­mu­ni­ties along the south­west­ern bor­der. Fa­cil­i­ties for de­tain­ing im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally are well be­yond ca­pac­ity, forc­ing au­thor­i­ties to re­lease some of them soon af­ter they are ap­pre­hended.

Barr’s de­ci­sion could add to the over­crowd­ing cri­sis in the im­mi­grant de­ten­tion cen­ters by re­quir­ing judges to keep asy­lum-seek­ers in jail for longer pe­ri­ods.

“I will de­lay the ef­fec­tive date of this de­ci­sion for 90 days so that DHS may con­duct the nec­es­sary op­er­a­tional plan­ning for ad­di­tional de­ten­tion and pa­role de­ci­sions,” Barr wrote in the or­der, which was re­leased Tues­day night.

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