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Asylum seekers allege unwritten ICE policy in lawsuit

Florida residents may be aware that several of President Donald Trump's more controversial immigration policies have been challenged in the courts. The latest such lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C., on May 30 by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 12 asylum seekers who have been denied bail. The plaintiffs allege that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has an unwritten policy of denying parole whenever possible to deter what it sees as widespread abuses of the asylum system.

The plaintiffs, who are from Central America, Cameroon and Cuba are being held at ICE detention facilities in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. Individuals seeking asylum in the United States are not eligible for bail, but an official ICE policy introduced in 2009 allows them to be released on parole for humanitarian reasons. However, the granting of parole is becoming increasingly uncommon. In 2016, the New Orleans Field Office granted parole 76% of the time. In 2018, it was granted in only 2 of 130 asylum cases.

President Trump has vowed to end what he refers to as the 'catch and release" approach to asylum seekers. He says that thousands of migrants take advantage of the system each month by crossing the Mexican border illegally and filing unfounded asylum claims. When granted parole, they are released into the community for months or years as they wait for an asylum hearing.

The asylum process is very difficult, and only those who can convince immigration judges that they have a genuine and credible fear of persecution based on their race, political views, religion or national origin are likely to be successful. Attorneys with experience in this area may help asylum seekers to gather evidence to support their credible fear claims. Attorneys might also explain other paths open to those hoping to settle in the United States.

Source: Reuters, More asylum seekers sue Trump administration over prolonged U.S. detention, Mica Rosenberg, May 30, 2019

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