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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

ACLU Lawsuit Challenges Obama Admin's Policy of Intimidating Immigrant Mothers

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From the ACLU:

December 16, 2014

The ACLU filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's policy of locking up asylum-seeking mothers and children to intimidate others from coming to the United States.

The case was brought on behalf of mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States for safety. Each has been found by an immigration officer or judge to have a "credible fear" of persecution, meaning there is a "significant possibility" they will be granted asylum.

Yet, instead of releasing these families as they await their asylum hearings, which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has typically done, the agency now categorically detains and denies their release on bond or other conditions. The Obama administration adopted this policy — "an aggressive deterrence strategy" — following this summer's increase in mothers and children coming to the United States.

The Obama administration's blanket no-release policy is a violation of federal immigration law and regulations, as well as the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibit the blanket detention of asylum seekers for purposes of general deterrence, the complaint charges.

The lawsuit aims to invalidate that policy and ensure that the families’ cases receive individualized reviews. Asylum-seeking mothers and children are being detained at facilities across the country, in places such as Karnes, Texas, and Berks County, Penn. The nation's largest family detention facility just opened in Dilley, Texas.

Plaintiffs in this case — all of whom have cleared credible-fear screenings — include:

  • A mother who, along with her son, fled from Honduras after years of physical abuse at the hands of her son’s father. After he raped her, she escaped with the help of members of her church. However, DHS has refused to release the mother and son to live with their family in the U.S. while their asylum case proceeds.
  • A mother who fled El Salvador with her 5-year-old and 8-month-old daughters to escape brutal and unrelenting abuse by the children's father. She and her daughters are being further traumatized because they are locked up in detention as they await their asylum hearing, even though they have a U.S.-citizen relative who has offered to support them and provide the care the family needs.
  • A Salvadoran woman who, with her young son and daughter, escaped to the United States after her common-law husband physically abused her and threatened to kill her children. They are now languishing in detention awaiting an asylum hearing, even though they could stay with her mother who lives and works in Texas.


The case, RILR v. Johnson, was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Co-counsel are the ACLU's Immigrants’ Rights Project, the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU of Texas, the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law at Austin, and Covington & Burling LLP.

Click here to download the complaint.

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Updated 12-17-2014 at 08:09 AM by MKolken

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