Washington DC – The Biden administration has jailed tens of thousands of asylum seekers in violation of US and international law, a human rights group says in a new report, just weeks before a large number of people expected to come on the southern border of the country.
In one report Announced on Thursday, Human Rights First said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained tens of thousands of people in prisons instead of allowing them to live in the US with their families or sponsors when the law enforcement agencies are involved. Their asylum case is decided.
The group says that imprisoning asylum seekers is “inhumane, unnecessary and wasteful” and has resulted in severe physical and psychological harm, medical neglect and discrimination. .
“Asylum seekers are fundamentally dehumanizing and cruel,” said Becky Gendelman, an associate attorney who studies refugee protection at the group and author of the report.
Gendelman told Al Jazeera in an interview: “It cuts them off from legal representation and exposes them to terrible conditions of detention, it causes physical and psychological harm and it can cause trauma to those who have fled repression.
The report titled “‘I’m a prisoner here’: Biden administration policy locks out asylum seekers,” found that since President Joe Biden took office last January, the average asylum seekers were held in detention centers for 3.7 months.
This includes people who have passed their so-called ‘credible fear’ interview, in which an asylum seeker must explain to immigration officers why returning to the country of origin their country of origin could put them in danger.
Detention of asylum seekers is generally prohibited under international law, except in exceptional cases. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits unreasonable, unnecessary, disproportionate or arbitrary detention.
Human rights groups also say the detention of asylum seekers, who have not committed crimes, is against the law and violates their freedom of movement.
The report that came out when the US on May 23 was expected to end a pandemic-era policy introduced in March 2020 that allows authorities to deport the majority of asylum-seekers at the border, citing the need to protect the country from the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 1.8 million evictions have been made under Title 42with asylum seekers sent back to Mexico or their country of origin, according to government data.
“While the Biden administration has turned its back on and deported many Title 42 asylum seekers, many of the people it did not deport are in long-term and cruel detention,” Gendleman said.
Under the agreement with Mexico, the US can only deport people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador under Title 42.
Gendelman said that many of those jailed were asylum seekers who the United States could not deport to Mexico. According to reports, people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela as well as several countries in Africa have been detained for a long time.
Biden had commit eliminate prolonged detention, end the use of for-profit immigration detention centers, and maintain the legal right to seek asylum. But amid record-high visitor numbers to the US-Mexico border and attacks from his Republican opponents, Biden still applies some of the restrictive policies that his predecessor Donald Trump advocated. .
The Biden administration has drawn frequent criticism from immigrant advocates and progressive Democratic leaders urging the president to do more to uphold his accountability to asylum seekers. .
Trump, a president who has made discouraging asylum an important policy goal, has sought to detain asylum seekers during their procedureargued that most would not appear for their hearings if they were allowed into the United States while they await the outcome of their cases.
But this claim was refuted, and according to TRAC Immigration, A data collection organization at Syracuse University, in fiscal year 2019, 98.7% of non-custodial asylum seekers appeared before every court.
The Human Rights First report says the mass jailing of asylum seekers is also a result of the Biden administration’s policies (PDF) designates border crossers, including asylum seekers, as a “threat to border security” and an enforcement priority, according to a February 2021 ICE memo.
“We urge the Biden administration to stop imprisoning asylum seekers as it ends the illegal Title 42 policy. Instead, the organization should welcome them properly and use community-based programs,” Gendleman said.
DHS did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment on the report.
‘Like I’m a Criminal’
Salma, a human rights and opposition activist from Uganda, said she fled to the US in July 2021 after being detained and tortured. She applied for asylum after landing in Los Angeles, California. She said she was detained for six hours at the airport and then taken to the Adelanto detention center. She said she was chained during the three-hour drive there.
“First you are hungry, you are tired and then you are chained,” Salma, 30, who has used a pseudonym because her asylum case is still pending, told Al Jazeera. “They chained my arms, legs and wrists like I was a criminal,” she said.
Two days later, she was given a credential fear interview and she overcame it. However, she was still not allowed to leave the prison; She said she was told it was because she had no relatives in the US who could sponsor her.
She was also unable to immediately contact her attorney, her belongings, including her phone and passport, were taken, and her hair lock was also cut. The detention center was so cold, she said, that some of the women there had nosebleeds, while the food was of such poor quality that it was often thrown away.
NEW: @ humanrights1st The report, “I’m a prisoner here,” chronicles the imprisonment of tens of thousands of asylum seekers under the Biden administration in dangerous and brutal conditions. https://t.co/MoCg0Iluaf
– Rebecca Gendelman (@becky_gendelman) April 21, 2022
She was granted medical parole a month and a half later after she realized she was pregnant. She said she suffered a miscarriage a month after being released. “There’s no way someone can survive without the right food,” she said.
Based on TRAC, 23,827 asylum decisions were made in fiscal year 2021, down from 60,079 a year earlier. In 2021, the number of people granted asylum is 8,349 and an additional 402 people are granted other forms of relief.
US Department of Justice The data also shows that more than 1.5 million asylum cases are pending in court as of the first quarter of fiscal year 2022.
Meanwhile, a Human Rights First report found that Black asylum seekers were held for an average of nearly 4.3 months – 27% longer than non-Black asylum seekers.
Sabri, an asylum seeker who spoke to reporters on Thursday under a pseudonym, said he crossed the US-Mexico border in August 2021 after fleeing Sudan with his wife. He said his pardon request was denied multiple times even after he passed the interview about his credulous fear.
He said officers took their belongings and separated him from his wife. He was held at the Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana, while his wife was sent to another prison in the state.
“I think the US government will treat me well after everything I’ve been through,” Sabri said. “But the government detained me for five and a half months.”