The Slatest

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration From Holding Asylum-Seekers in Lengthy, Mass Detention

A protester holds a sign that says, "Abolish ICE"
Activists march and rally against ICE and the Trump administration’s immigration policies near the ICE offices in New York on June 29, 2018. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As asylum-seekers awaiting immigration hearings challenge the federal government over their lengthy detention, a federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction that mandates the government immediately release or grant hearings to more than 1,000 applicants.

That decision, in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups on behalf of nine detained asylum-seekers jailed up to two years, punctures a hole in the Trump administration’s efforts to deter immigrants from entering the country with the threat of a lengthy detention. Many asylum-seekers have been jailed for months or years without having their cases individually reviewed, according to the Washington Post.

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According to U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg’s ruling, the government has violated its own policy by not releasing or granting hearings within seven days to asylum-seekers who have established a “credible fear” of persecution in their home countries.

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“This Opinion does no more than hold the Government accountable to its own policy, which recently has been honored more in the breach than the observance,” Boasberg wrote in his opinion. “Having extended the safeguards of the Parole Directive to asylum-seekers, ICE must now ensure that such protections are realized.”

The government has the right to hold asylum-seekers in detention while their cases are pending, but a 2009 directive gives those with “credible fear,” as established through an initial interview, the right to be considered for release, according to the New York Times. Parole rates under the Trump administration have plummeted under the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, and the ACLU and other organizations were able to show with those numbers that the administration had a blanket policy of denying the asylum-seekers’ release without considering their individual levels of flight risk or danger to the community.

As the lawsuit makes its way through the courts, ICE cannot detain asylum applicants for more than seven days without reviewing their individual claims. If the agency determines an asylum-seeker should remain in custody, it will have to give a specific written explanation.

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