Despite a recent report indicating that the vast majority of the Central American families who illegally entered the U.S. last year seeking asylum failed to appear in court, the Obama administration says it is further reducing family detention.
“I have reached the conclusion that we must make substantial changes in our detention practices with respect to families with children,” Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson said Wednesday. “In short, once a family has established eligibility for asylum or other relief under our laws, long-term detention is an inefficient use of our resources and should be discontinued.”
According to Johnson, who recently visited the Karnes, Texas detention facility, DHS is already taking steps to relax family detention policies including: evaluating the potential release for families detained beyond 90 days, ending the use of “general deterrence” as a factor for detention, appointing a Federal Advisory Committee to advise on family centers, and ensuring families’ access to counsel and other services.
Earlier in the week statistics from the Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review obtained by Fox News revealed that 84 percent of family units from Central America detained beginning July 18, 2014, who were allowed to remain out of detention following their first court appearance, failed to appear for further proceedings.
Wednesday, however, Johnson announced further actions to allow for more family releases.
Johnson said he has approved and accepted a new plan offered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña and her staff to offer release on monetary bond to illegal immigrant family unites who state a credible fear of persecution in their home countries.
The criteria for the bond amount, Johnson said, would take “into account ability to pay, while also encompassing risk of flight and public safety.”
Further, Johnson said he was instructing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to move forward with conduct credible and reasonable fear interviews “within a reasonable timeframe.”
“In substance – the detention of families will be short-term in most cases. During that time, we will have the opportunity to confirm accurate address and sponsor information so that ICE can more effectively monitor and ensure compliance with immigration obligations. During that time, families will also receive education about their rights and responsibilities, including attendance at immigration court hearings and other reporting requirements,” Johnson said.
He added that family detention will continue for those illegal immigrants who are not seeking relief.
The move to reduce family detention comes amid outcries and lawsuits from immigration activists who see detention as unfitting for the circumstances. Despite the outcry, advocates for stricter policies point out that the U.S. is more than generous with its policies for relief and further reductions represent a “dangerous,” “reckless” development.
“U.S. asylum standards are perhaps the most lax on earth, they’re wildly abused, and they pose a massive national security risk that has and will come home to roost,” a GOP aide noted to Breitbart News. “Our asylum standards have already tragically cost American lives. Americans know we need to be tightening them, not loosening them.”
Indeed, as Fox News’ recent report revealed few are even appear in in court for the continued processing of their asylum claims, disappearing into the nation’s fabric where current immigration enforcement efforts will likely not apprehend them again.