The American Immigration Council, American Civil Liberties Union National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center today sued the federal government over its current practice of denying a fair deportation process to Central American children and families who have fled violence.
The groups filed the case on behalf of families currently being held at a detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. The complaint charges the Obama Administration with enacting a policy that ensures rapid deportations by holding the detainees to an erroneous and nearly insurmountable standard to prove their asylum claims, and by withholding resources like lawyers and translators from them.
As Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said:
U.S. law guarantees [these families] a fair opportunity to seek asylum. Yet, the government’s policy violates that basic law and core American values — we do not send people who are seeking asylum back into harm’s way. We should not sacrifice fairness for speed in life-or-death situations.
Added Trina Realmuto, an attorney at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild:
The women and children detained in Artesia have endured brutal murders of loved ones, rapes, death threats, and similar atrocities that no mother or child ever should have to endure, and our government is herding them through the asylum process like cattle. The deportation-mill in Artesia lacks even the most basic protections, like notice and the opportunity to be heard, that form the cornerstone of due process in this country.
According to the complaint, the Obama administration is violating long-established constitutional and statutory law by enacting policies that have:
- Categorically prejudged asylum cases with a “detain-and-deport” policy, regardless of individual circumstances.
- Drastically restricted communication with the outside world for the women and children held at the remote detention center, including communication with attorneys. If women got to make phone calls at all, they were cut off after three minutes when consulting with their attorneys. This makes it impossible to prepare for a hearing or get legal help.
- Given virtually no notice to detainees of critically important interviews used to determine the outcome of asylum requests. Mothers have no time to prepare, are rushed through their interviews, are cut off by officials throughout the process, and are forced to answer traumatic questions, including detailing instances of rape, while their children are listening.
- Led to the intimidation and coercion of the women and children by immigration officers, including being screamed at for wanting to see a lawyer.
The plaintiffs include:
- A Honduran mother who fled repeated death threats in her home country to seek asylum in the United States with her two young children. The children’s father was killed by a violent gang that then sent the mother and her children continuous death threats.When she went to the police they told her that they could not do anything to help her. It is common knowledge where she lived that the police are afraid of the gang and will do nothing to stop it.
- A mother who fled El Salvador with her two children because of threats by the gang that controls the area where they lived. The gang stalked her 12-year-old child every time he left the house and threatened kidnapping. She fears that if the family returns to El Salvador, the gang will kill her son. Some police officers are known to be corrupt and influenced by gangs. The mother says she knows of people who have been killed by gang members after reporting them to police.
- A mother who fled El Salvador with her 10-month old son after rival gangs threatened to kill her and her baby. One gang tried to force the mother to become an informant on the activities of another gang, and when she refused, told her she had 48 hours to leave or be killed.
The complaint, M.S.P.C. v. Johnson, and attorney declarations are available at the Immigration Policy Center’s Artesia Resource Page.