July 23, 2018

Statement of Hilarie Bass, ABA president Re: Executive Order on separation of children at the border

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2018 — The American Bar Association is pleased that the administration has decided to stop the inhumane and untenable policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. We call on the government to expeditiously and efficiently reunite families and minimize any further harm to the children. The ABA pledges its full support in working within the legal community to make this happen.

The executive order is a first step. Comprehensive and just immigration reform is still needed. The ABA opposes detention of noncitizens except in extraordinary circumstances and favors humane alternatives to detention that are the least restrictive necessary to ensure appearance in their immigration proceedings, including pre-hearing release and bond. It is not an either-or choice between separation and detention of families. Families should not be detained unless there is some individualized determination of flight or security risk.

If families are detained, clear standards are needed that allow visits by independent observers and friends and family. Detainees also should receive legal information explaining the process and their rights.

In addition, asylum seekers legally approaching ports of entry should not be turned away or told to return later. Our country has the obligation to accept legal asylum seekers and not force them to try to enter the country illegally or face other dangers as they wait for entry.

In addition, the ABA supports the appointment of counsel at federal government expense to represent all indigent persons in removal proceedings.

The ABA is committed to defending liberty and advancing the rule of law as well as protecting our borders. We ask that all officials exercise restraint and a common-sense approach centered on true public safety when it comes to arrest and deportation and we call on everyone involved in the process to be treated with dignity and respect.

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