Immigration-related issues again dominated the headlines last week as major news sources reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a nationwide and class action lawsuit against the Obama administration. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges the administration’s policy of retaining, in immigration detention centers, women and children who are seeking asylum in the United States. These detention centers are spread all across the U.S. with the largest center located in Texas.
The Case – RILR v. Johnson
The ACLU filed the lawsuit, RILR v. Johnson, on behalf of foreign national children and their mothers who assert that they are fleeing to the U.S. from Central America in order to escape rape, death threats, extreme violence, and persecution that they are subject to in their home countries. Each of the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit has already been found to possess a “credible fear” of persecution, and this finding was made by an immigration enforcement office or immigration judge. A finding of credible fear is the first step in applying for asylum in the United States. Those who have been found to have a credible fear, like the plaintiffs in this case, enjoy the “significant possibility” that their asylum application will ultimately be granted.
Some of the plaintiffs involved in the case include a Honduran mother and son who fled from the physical abuse perpetrated upon them by the boy’s father, and an El Salvadorian mother and her two children who are also fleeing the children’s violent father. Although these plaintiffs have U.S. citizen friends and family members who have pledged to house them while they await their asylum hearings, the Obama administration’s blanket detention policy prevents the asylum seekers from joining their loved ones. According to court documents, the plaintiffs worry that their indefinite detention in centers is adding to the emotional and psychological trauma that their children have already suffered.
The ACLU’s Accusations
According to the ACLU, even though the plaintiffs have been found to possess a credible fear of persecution, the Obama administration is not releasing them into the community for them to wait for their asylum hearings with friends or family. Instead, the administration has ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain the plaintiffs as part of the administration’s “aggressive deterrence strategy,” which is a policy aimed at decreasing the amount of Central Americans who come to the U.S. seeking asylum. This policy was implemented by the President this past summer in the wake of the significant upsurge in unaccompanied minor children who came to the U.S. seeking asylum.
In its complaint filed with the court, the ACLU charges that the Obama administration’s detention policy violates federal immigration law and regulations, in addition to running afoul of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, since these laws prohibit the detention of asylum seekers in furtherance of a general deterrence policy.
The ACLU is once again doing a great service for immigrants in the U.S. by filing this lawsuit to challenge the Obama Administration’s infringement of the rights of asylum seekers. The charges alleged are particularly egregious, given that all of the plaintiffs have already passed their credible fear interviews. Continue to check with our blog for the most up to date news on this and all other immigration-related issues.
Additional Blog Posts
Immigration Judges Request Separation from the Department of Justice, ImmigRantings, August 19, 2013
Congress Attempts to Implement Measures to Protect Immigrants from Notarios, ImmigRantings, September 27, 2013