December 22, 2009 STATEMENT — LIRS Applauds Parole Announcement and Calls for More Reforms to the Immigration Detention System

Press Contact: Stacy Martin, Vice President for Mission Advancement
410-230-2847, lirspress@lirs.org

BALTIMORE, December 22, 2009—Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) applauds the recent announcement by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to automatically review whether asylum seekers are eligible to be released from immigration detention.

LIRS has long championed the rights and fair treatment of immigrants navigating the U.S. immigration system. In “Locking Up Family Values,” a joint February 2007 report that highlighted the imprisonment of immigrant families, LIRS recommended the release of detained asylum seekers who do not present a flight risk or pose a threat to the community.

Current U.S. immigration law requires DHS to initially detain all arriving asylum seekers. Today, once DHS asylum officials find their fear credible, asylum seekers may be eligible for release as long as they make a parole request in writing and demonstrate that their release is in the public interest.

Starting January 4, 2010 asylum seekers will no longer be required to request parole in writing. ICE will automatically review for release eligibility all individuals who pass the credible fear interview. Once their identity is proven, an ICE officer will determine whether they pose a danger to the community and whether they are likely to appear at their court hearings and appointments.

However, as a condition for release for detained asylum seekers, ICE may still request a bond or place them into an electronic monitoring device program. For many vulnerable migrants without the financial means to post bond or with limited community ties, absent other reforms, this will result in prolonged detention.

LIRS Director for Access to Justice Leslie E. Vélez added, “The parole policy change presents yet another opportunity for the government to create an alternatives to detention program that satisfies the risk of non-compliance and meets the needs of vulnerable migrants.”

“Last week’s ICE announcement represents a commitment by the federal government to rein in its own powers to deprive vulnerable migrants of their liberty,” said Annie Wilson, LIRS Acting President. “However, this is just the first step. More legislative and administrative reforms are needed to adequately protect asylum seekers and others caught up in the burgeoning immigration detention system.”

LIRS advocates for immigration detention reforms that ensure that immigrants will not be detained unless the government shows that it is necessary and only as a last resort for those who pose a threat to the community, and that broaden alternatives to detention programs for immigrants awaiting rulings on their cases.

The ICE revised parole policy factsheet can be found here.

The joint LIRS family detention report, “Locking Up Family Values,” can be found here.

Since 1939, LIRS has created welcoming communities for America’s newcomers. It is one of the nation’s leading agencies serving refugees and immigrants. LIRS resettles refugees, protects migrant children, advocates for just treatment of asylum seekers, seeks alternatives to immigration detention and stands for unity for families fractured by unfair laws. To learn more about LIRS’s work of welcome, please visit lirs.org.