Is ICE entering a new, restrictice phase in paroling asylum seekers?

Sunday, May 29th, 2011
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

On December 9, 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a new policy regarding the custody of aliens coming to the border to seek asylum.  I wrote about the policy change with great excitement when it was announced. The memo states:  

Each alien’s eligibility for parole should be considered and analyzed on its own merits and based on the facts of the individual alien’s case. However, when an arriving alien found to have a credible fear establishes to the satisfaction of DRO [Detention and Removal Operations] his or her identity and that he or she presents neither a flight risk nor danger to the community, DRO should, absent additional factors, parole the alien on the basis that his or her continued detention is not in the public interest.

 As a result of the policy, I have had very little work to do in arranging for the release of detainees who wanted to be released from detention. Asylum seekers have been coming to my office after they were released and the release process did not require the assistance of an attorney and did not take a long time. Spending any time in detention is traumatic and so the expeditious process and generous granting of release was a welcome change.

It seems things may be changing in San Diego. Recently, I encountered a case where it took months for San Diego ICE to release a detainee who came from a country where asylum based on her type of claim is virtually always granted and who had close family ties in the United States. Not only was the process time consuming, but in the end the woman, who was not a flight risk or a danger, had to pay a substantial bond before she could be released. Before she was released, she was asked to provide documents regarding her support if she was released. The instructions were extremely cryptic which indicated to me that there was no real need for the documents and the request  was a way of causing work for her and her family (and me) for no real purpose. Getting the forms to ICE was difficult – hand delivery was forbidden – and ICE’s system of receiving the documents inefficient. The post office box ICE uses for the purpose of receiving correspondence is checked only intermittently. So don’t send your favorite ICE officer a cake through U.S. mail. It may be moldy before he or she gets it. With the costs of housing detainees, the scarcity of resources, and the human rights implications of detention, you would think they could send someone to check the mail everyday. Plus, there might be a cake awaiting.

According to the 2009 memo, “consistent with the terms of this directive, DRO shall maintain national and local statistics on parole determinations and have a quality assurance process in place to monitor parole decision-making….

It would be neat if some enterprising journalist would request a look at these statistics to see if San Diego ICE has recently begun dragging its feet in the parole process. ICE rank and file is on record of opposing policy initiatives of their leaders.  Perhaps this is their way of expressing their opposition to the December 2009 memo. Or perhaps this is official and ICE is retreating from its memo. Or perhaps my perception is wrong. Posted May 29, 2011.

 


 

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