The Bogus Reasons ICE Uses to Lock Up Asylum Seekers

On Thursday, May 17, the ACLU will be in federal district court to challenge the Trump’s administration’s arbitrary and illegal incarceration of thousands of asylum seekers who fled persecution, torture, or death in their countries of origin. 

For our plaintiffs, and the class members they represent, the chain of events leading to incarceration was the same: They presented themselves to immigration officers, passed screenings, and were found to have credible asylum claims. Then they were locked up in immigration jails across the country. 

All of them applied for “humanitarian parole,” or release from detention, presenting evidence that they were not flight risks or dangers to the community. And yet, ICE denied every request, often with form letters that provided no indication that their applications and supporting documents were taken seriously.

It’s clear that ICE is violating its own policy directive, which instructs that asylum seekers should be granted release provided they meet certain requirements while they await rulings in their cases. The government, however, maintains that each of our plaintiffs and class members did, in fact, receive an “individualized determination” of whether or not they should be released. To support the claim, the government provided a series of “reasons” of why ICE denied our plaintiffs’ parole requests. This is the first time our plaintiffs have been given even anything close to a real explanation for their detention. And they’re only getting those explanations months after their parole requests were denied, in the form of declarations put together by officials seeking to justify their actions after the fact. But let’s look at some of the government’s so-called “determinations.”

Take Mr. Abelardo Asensio Callol, who came to the U.S. fleeing persecution by the Cuban government. ICE denied his parole request because he allegedly had not shown an “ongoing relationship” with the person he would live with outside of detention while he awaits a decision in his asylum case.

The catch? Mr. Callol’s sponsor was his own mother, a green card holder. If Mr. Callol’s parents can’t vouch for him, who can?

What about H.A.Y.? She came to this country with her husband after they received death threats from an armed wing of a criminal cartel in Mexico. The government’s reason for denying her release is that she is a “recent entrant.” Literally everyone who comes to the U.S. border seeking asylum is, by definition, a “recent entrant.”

And then there’s Mr. Ansly Damus, the lead plaintiff of the lawsuit, who has been locked up for more than a year and a half — and counting. An ethics teacher from Grande-Rivière-du-Nord, Haiti, Mr. Damus criticized a local official for corruption in one of his seminars. Afterwards, an armed gang who supports that official brutally attacked him before setting his motorcycle on fire and threatening to kill him. Mr. Damus fled to the United States, where he presented himself to immigration authorities and applied for asylum. A judge granted him asylum — not once, but twice. He has not committed any crimes and has shown ICE that he had a safe place to live after he was released.

ICE’s reason for denying him parole was that he didn’t have “sufficient ties” to the United States. For one thing, that’s not even true – Mr. Damus showed that he had a friend with lawful status whom he could live with, as well as letters of support from other community members.

Second, every asylum seeker who comes to the border, again, by definition does not have “ties” to this country. And if they’re never released from detention, they will never get the chance to build those “ties.”

The arbitrary imprisonment of people like Mr. Callol, H.A.Y., and Mr. Damus are part of the administration’s larger strategy of deterring immigrants from seeking refuge, even though our laws permit them to.

There can be no other plausible explanation for ICE’s dramatic shift from granting parole in more than 90 percent of cases to denying parole for asylum seekers in nearly every case. This same cruel and abusive deterrence strategy underlies tactics like brutally separating parents from their children and criminally prosecuting individuals who cross the border to seek asylum.

In order to further the Trump’s administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, ICE is holding asylum seekers to criteria that they can never meet. Their justifications for denying parole are painfully transparent, and the court should see through them.

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Steve Johnson

Anonymous- I can understand why you wouldn't put your name on a statement like that. Folks like you seem to a have a very narrow and wrongheaded idea of what "America" is, or should be. In the beginning, the white people took this land from the native peoples by violent and deceitful means, and its been downhill ever since. btw Trump and Sessions are ignorant and evil men by any standards. Now you just go on in your hateful ignorance and be a good little soldier wearing the white hood at night. Nobody knows you. Nobody knows your name.


Don't forget the detention centers are (in large part) privately-owned. Wonder why detentions have gone up? $$$

Steve Johnson

Bill Murphy-Amen to that! Did you hear Terry Gross' recent interview with John LeCarre? Mostly about the dark politics going on now and quite a bit about oligarchs. Simply put, "just follow the money." Indeed.


The claims in this story are completely false.. Just like federal criminal court... ties are family members or monetary only.... Asylum seekers are at high risk of not showing up to court.... I think the ACLU should work for those verified hardship cases such as keeping families together to get released not just some Univision political claim that everyone is not a flight risk, nobody has committed a crime, everyone pays taxes, everyone is an outstanding citizen.....


They literally mention specific cases in the article. Can you read?


The government has no choice but to keep them in custody until their asylum claims can be verified because the majority that are released fail to appear at their hearings. They simply disappear and obtain false identification usually by stealing the identity of an American citizen and using false social security numbers to obtain work or get in line at the welfare office. No one should be allowed into America unless they can prove their asylum claims beyond any shadow of a doubt and demonstrate the ability to financially support themselves. America is not a dumping ground for misfits, criminals or job seekers from third world countries. And for those that claim that America is a nation of immigrants, wrong again. America is composed of foreigners who invaded America, slaughtered the native population, stole their land and locked the surviving native Americans in concentration camps called reservations, something Israel is currently engaged in concerning the native Arabs with the support of America.


Deport every last one of these Illegal immigrant sneaks who are all economic parasites back to their trash countries as all they do is take, take, and take from Americans.

Absolute power that corrupts are rogue Judges who do not adhere to the Laws of the USA and who just want to make a name for themselves.


All Illegal Immigrants from Central American need to stay in Mexico and ask for asylum there and that's the law.


Don't let any of these sneaky Illegal Immigrants out of detention and send them all back and have them seek asylum in Mexico


These Illegal Immigrants think that they can overwhelm the US with large numbers and that the US Government cannot deport them. Wrong! We will deport all the Illegal Immigrants by cutting off all welfare, jobs, housing, medical care, free legal assistance and all benefits, as they are not wanted here in the USA when they do not abide our laws and think they can be sneaky and just come in illegally. Deport em. all.


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