ICE’s New Announcement on Release of Detained Families is Long Overdue: A Victory in the Face of Overwhelming Abuses Against Refugees

Statement from Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). Since July of 2014, RAICES has been serving as the coordinator of the Karnes Pro Bono Project, providing over 1,000 families in the Karnes Detention Camp with access to free legal services.

“Today’s move by the Obama Administration, to release mothers and children who are found to have a positive fear finding, is only seen as a victory because of how bad the Administration has made life for refugees. A year ago we would never have accepted this minor shift in policy towards asylum seekers, nor would we have celebrated this move by the Administration. After nearly a year of advocating for children and mothers, who have fled immense violence, we are thrilled that the Administration is finally accepting that their treatment of this population of people was wrong. We call for an immediate end to all family detention, and that the Administration take a serious step in ensuring protections for refugee families.

Acknowledging the growing consensus that it can not provide proper medical care for women and children detained in family internment camps, ICE announced on Monday evening that it would release all detained families who have been found to have fear of returning to their home countries. This announcement comes one week after it was discovered that 250 children had been injected with adult doses of Hepatitis A vaccines after they were awoken in the middle of the night, marched out to wait for hours outside the internment camp’s chapel, and denied information about what exactly was being injected into their children’s bodies.

Families report that they must languish inside these internment camps for up to four to five weeks before receiving their initial fear interviews, far too long for any family to be subject to confinement. Any length of detention is too long. We will continue to advocate for the use of community-based alternatives to detention as the most appropriate, effective, and inexpensive program for refugee families.”

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The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) promotes justice by providing free and low cost legal services to immigrants, children and refugees.