Locking Up Asylum Seekers Isn't Just Cruel, It's a Waste of Resources

President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigrants from seven countries included another worrisome provision that's getting significantly less attention. The order also promises to detain more asylum-seekers and turn some around at the border. Human Rights Initiative condemns such actions as violations of international law, inhumane and contrary to our country's fundamental values.The order purports to detain all people who present themselves at the border and ask for asylum. International law requires that asylum-seekers not be detained unless they present a national security or criminal risk. In the past, government officials made determinations and often released asylum-seekers on bond, with ankle monitors, or on their own recognizance. Generally, these clients show up for their asylum interviews or court dates because they want to do whatever they can to follow the legal process and obtain asylum. Detaining asylum seekers has many practical, negative effects. Most detentions are located away from cities. This makes finding attorneys, counselors, doctors and other social services extremely difficult. If asylum seekers are detained at the border, the Human Rights Initiative and other providers might never have the opportunity to help them present their cases or ensure fair hearings. A lack of legal representation makes it five times more likely that the government will deny an asylum-seeker's claim and return him or her to face torture, rape or death in the home country. The order rushes asylum processes, making it more likely that due process violations will occur. Detention also harms asylum-seekers mentally and physically, aggravates trauma and has been condemned by doctors, lawyers, and faith groups. Our clients, like the vast majority of asylum-seekers, include community leaders who have opposed repressive regimes in Venezuela, Asia and all over Africa, Christians suffering from religious persecution, women fleeing honor killings and female circumcision, translators who have served the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq, and countless others who have fought to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs. They escape to the United States because we have always stood as a protector of human rights. If sent back to their home countries, they are at an extremely high risk of violence, sexual assault and death. Asylum-seekers have gone on to serve our country in the military, as teachers, health care workers, human rights activists and entrepreneurs with successful businesses that enrich our communities. At a minimum, these fellow human beings deserve our compassion and the opportunity to have their cases heard by officers or judges in our well-established asylum system. They should not be locked up and treated like criminals. Besides those fleeing violence, the other losers from this order are the taxpayers. Detaining immigrants costs as much as of $100 per day (in addition to the costs of building new facilities). Right now the government is already detaining a record number of immigrants. There is not enough space to detain everyone. As detailed in the Human Rights Initiative's recent report, There are severe backlogs at the Asylum Office and in Immigration Court, making it extremely likely that asylum-seekers could be held in detention for years. The asylum trial for one HRI client was set for September of 2019. Putting these innocent fellow human beings in detention for lengthy periods will drain our national coffers for no good reason. Immigration judges are skilled at determining who is a flight risk who might be a national security or criminal risk. An expensive borderwall will not prevent asylum seekers from coming to the United States and asking for protection. The enforcement actions listed in the order have been tried in the past but were ineffective and discriminatory. They made our communities less safe. These policies build on the xenophobic and fear-mongering language that was the hallmark of Trump's campaign. They are divisive, and undermine the fundamental rights and humanitarian obligations that are at the core of this nation. The United States is better than this. Call your representative and express your outrage. Now. Chris Mansour is the director of advocacy and appeals for the Human Rights Initiative in Dallas. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Website: hrionline.org  Continue reading...

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