The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.
A new report on expanding immigration detention released by the American Bar Association finds the federal government’s use of family detention violates laws and human rights norms.
The report, developed by the ABA Commission on Immigration with the the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP, focuses on the government’s response to the 2014 influx in arrivals of Central American mothers with young children to the southwestern U.S. border. It finds that the government’s buildup of family detention centers—and the practice of detaining families in jail-like settings—are at odds with the presumption of liberty and impinge on the families’ due process right to legal counsel.
The report urges the government and the Department of Homeland Security to anticipate and prepare for periodic increases in the migration of individuals and families seeking asylum without resorting to detention.
The report also recommends several specific reforms, including:
- releasing families held in detention facilities;
- adopting a policy of dealing with families seeking asylum within the community instead of through detention;
- employing the least-restrictive means of ensuring appearance at hearings and protection of the community;
- developing standards for families and children that do not follow a penal model; and
- ensuring access to legal information and representation for all families subjected to detention at every stage of their immigration proceedings.
“America is a country that honors family and prides itself on fairness and due process,” ABA President Paulette Brown said. “Immigrants and asylum-seekers deserve the opportunity to have their cases heard under the provisions of our laws in a timely, humane fashion, free from the obstacles and indignities imposed by unnecessary detention.”
View the report: “Family Immigration Detention: Why the Past Cannot Be Prologue”