USCRI Statement on the
Final Emergency Interim Report CBP Families and Children Care Panel, Homeland Security Advisory Panel, April 16, 2019
For Immediate Release: April 26, 2018
MEDIA CONTACT: Annette Sheckler; firstname.lastname@example.org; 703-310-1130 (x:3041)
ARLINGTON, VA –
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit international organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of refugees and immigrants. We support bipartisan efforts by Congress and all organizations to explore permanent solutions and make recommendations to improve the immigration system and to protect vulnerable children and families seeking asylum in the United States. USCRI firmly believes that according due process to asylum seekers is in the best interest of the United States and has been part of our foreign policy and humanitarian policy for decades.
After an initial review of the Homeland Security Advisory Panel’s interim report, USCRI rejects the emergency legislative. We reject these recommendations because they narrow the legal protections for children and families seeking asylum. However, USCRI encourages further examination of some of the Panel’s procedural concepts for improving asylum adjudications.
The Panel recommends emergency legislation to limit the scope of the Flores consent decree to unaccompanied minors. USCRI disagrees. In 1997, the U.S. government reached an agreement known as the Flores Settlement Agreement, which arose out of Flores v. Reno, a 1987 California case. The Flores case was originally brought to ensure humane conditions and timely release for all children in federal immigration custody, and the settlement agreement should remain in place and continue to protect all children from prolonged detention by the Department of Homeland Security.
The Homeland Security Advisory Panel recommends amending section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to require border crossers to present asylum claims at a U.S. point of entry. USCRI disagrees. As stated eloquently in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” As a global leader in human rights, the United States must not introduce obstacles, but instead should create fair and efficient systems that allow those seeking asylum an opportunity to present their claim.
The Panel recommends amending the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 to permit immediate repatriation of a child crossing the border to a custodial parent in their country of origin. USCRI disagrees. The TVPRA of 2008 created a process to ensure that children arriving at the border from noncontiguous countries were protected from traffickers and others who might wish to harm them. Congress should not roll back those protections.
The Panel recommends that DHS be given the discretion to keep a child in an adult detention center together with the family unit when accompanied by someone other than a parent or legal guardian. USCRI disagrees. Children who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian and without immigration status are defined by the Homeland Security Act as “unaccompanied alien children” and they must be transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Panel’s recommended change would place more children in DHS detention facilities without the proper care and services they require.
In other areas of the interim report, the Panel recommends an increase in the number of immigration judges to hear asylum cases. USCRI and most organizations support this idea. Furthermore, USCRI recommends an increase in the number of asylum officers with a corresponding authority to hear full asylum cases for family units crossing the border. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) does not have the capacity to ramp up its system to deal with the backlog of cases on its own .
USCRI supports bringing together health care professionals, licensed social workers, attorneys, and others to provide care and assistance to traumatized asylum seekers. If the Administration decides to move forward with Regional Processing Centers (RPCs), USCRI recommends nongovernmental organizations take part, and provide some of the assistance.
For over 100 years, USCRI has protected the rights and addressed the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide and supported their transition to a dignified life.
For more information about USCRI, please visit us at refugees.org.