New Hope for Some Refugee Families Held in Detention Camps

February 25, 2015

After I published my post on our government’s detention camps, I discovered that a federal court had recently issued a preliminary injunction that should provide relief for some of the incarcerated families.

Those who’ll benefit are mothers and children who’ve already passed the first test for gaining asylum, i.e., a hearing officer’s decision that they have “a credible fear” of persecution or torture in their home countries.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has been routinely holding them in the camps, rather than releasing them on bond or some other condition intended to ensure they attend their next hearing.

The government’s lawyers argued that keeping virtually all the families locked up was necessary in order to deter others from crossing the border. Alleged that “an absence of deterrence” would pose a threat to national security.

The judge wouldn’t buy that. We’re talking here about tired, hungry, poor — and fearful — mothers and children after all. This is one, though not the only reason he enjoined blanket detention until further notice.

So at least for the time being, ICE will have to revert to its prior policy of deciding, on a case-by-case basis, whether releasing families would post a risk to the community or of flight, which I assume means managing to elude capture if they don’t show up for their hearings.

A preliminary injunction means that the judge believes that the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit, is more likely than not to win the case.

This will, so far as I can see, do nothing for the families who haven’t passed the “credible fear” test — and may fail simply because they don’t have a lawyer to represent them. But it’s still a piece of good news in what’s very bad-news situation.