As a migrant caravan of thousands of people seeking asylum approaches the U.S., Attorney General Jeff Sessions is preparing to make a move that would allow him to keep any asylum seeker detained indefinitely. Immigrant rights advocacy groups and community leaders across the country have joined to condemn Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ latest power grab to further take away the power of immigration judges, leaving the decision of whether certain immigrants, such as asylum seekers, should be released from detention solely to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The more than 50 organizations filed a “People’s Amicus Brief” detailing their opposition.
“The actions of Jeff Sessions are yet another example of this administration’s racist and anti-immigrant agenda,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, Field Director for Mijente. “This decision would take away any opportunity for people to go before an immigration judge to present their case for bond, leaving the decision solely up to ICE agents, who have become President Trump’s national police force. This will lead to a massive increase in the number of people held in immigration detention, including those held indefinitely.”
In early September, Sessions announced that he would overturn a precedent by the Board of Immigration Appeals in the decision known as “Matter of X-K,” which held that immigration judges have the power to release certain migrants on bond at a hearing. The last day to submit comments through amicus briefs is November 9. The brief describes why they oppose the Attorney General’s latest power grab, including the alarming nature of leaving this critical decision up to ICE agents.
ICE has a documented track record of abuse. It is responsible for fatal medical neglect, collusion with private prison companies, lack of transparency and accountability, and a culture of violence and impunity. Most recently, the agency missed its first three deadlines for reporting to Congress about what detention facilities it uses to hold immigrants, only to finally release a list riddled with error and deception.
Advocates underscored how the asylum process — as many predict those in the migrant caravan will claim asylum — is already failing people looking for safety and protection. This decision will only make it harder for people and their loved ones to access critical legal services, a struggle faced by the majority of 44,000 people incarcerated daily in immigrant jails and prisons.
“Sessions, along with President Trump, are advancing policies that erode our democratic values, civil rights, and judicial processes in this country” Gabriela Marquez-Benitez, Senior Organizer at Detention Watch Network. “We know this decision will be leveraged as a sinister justification to expand immigration detention and keep more members of our community in jail. We are ready to expose this abuse and fight against it at every turn.”
The amicus brief was filed on October 29, and included over 50 organizations around the country, including national support from Mijente, Detention Watch Network, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the National Bail Fund Network. Mijente is a national Latinx digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx movement building and organizing leading on mobilizing against immigration enforcement and criminalization.
Detention Watch Network is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.
RAICES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas.
Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past.