Washington D.C. – Last night, the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project succeeded in halting the deportation of four Central American families apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the weekend, who had been scheduled for deportation this morning. Based on interviews with the families, who are currently detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, the CARA Project appealed their asylum cases to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and requested emergency stays of deportation. The BIA has granted the stays.
“Our interviews revealed that these families have bona fide asylum claims, but were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to present them at their hearings in immigration court,” said Katie Shepherd, Managing Attorney for the CARA Project. She continued, “It’s beyond shameful that these families, who risked everything to seek protection in the United States, were being forcibly returned to the violence and turmoil they fled in Central America.”
Thus far, the CARA project volunteers and staff have met with eight families held in Dilley. The circumstances of each family vary, but the following trends have become clear:
• Families have fled El Salvador and Honduras, two of the most violent areas in the Western Hemisphere.
• Many mothers did not understand the legal process or their right to appeal a negative determination by the immigration judge.
• Traumatized families have been incarcerated, with inconsolable children and mothers terrified of deportation who have limited access to legal assistance.
• Project attorneys are scrambling to file legal motions for these families, including, for example, one mother who is a survivor of extreme domestic violence but never had the opportunity to present her claim for asylum before an immigration judge.
• ICE is blocking access to counsel by refusing to let certain women meet with CARA to discuss their cases.
• None of the family members saw a warrant before ICE entered their homes.
• ICE should have explored other methods to deport these families before resorting to these aggressive tactics, especially since many were complying with the immigration court and ICE orders. One mother checked in every three weeks with ICE officers for over a year, wore an electronic ankle monitor, and turned in her and her children’s passports as requested. ICE could have taken her into custody in far less frightening and invasive methods than sending seven armed ICE agents to her home to detain the mother and her four children.
Ms. Shepherd explained, “This approach is unconscionable. These families had finally found a little bit of safety and security after fleeing countries where they were subject to threats, extortion, assault and worse. To undertake the journey to safety was not a decision any mother would make lightly. But now they’ve had that security torn away from them, their children rousted from their homes and incarcerated with the threat of deportation looming. Meanwhile, the federal government has denied their rights at every turn. This is the latest the long line of abhorrent government actions that make it clear that our government fails to understand that these individuals are asylum seekers fleeing violence and seeking protection in the United States.”