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Ignoring Alternatives & Increasing Detention of Families

Although the number of families being detained on the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped, the government is moving forward with plans to increase its capacity to detain families, with plans to open a new facility to house 2,400 women and children in Dilley, Texas, next month. Many of the women and children who would be housed in this facility are fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the option of releasing individuals on bond or providing an ankle monitor, detention is clearly the preferred solution. Detention is not only an expense that falls on the shoulders of tax-payers; it also exposes detainees to the risk of sexual abuse. In fact, a complaint from earlier this month alleges recent sexual abuse in the Karnes City, Texas, facility, and other centers were previously closed after numerous allegations of abuse. Meanwhile, an alternative program from 2004 known as ISAP (Intensive Supervision Appearance Program) has proven to be widely successful, with 93% of participants showing up to their scheduled hearings on their own accord.

Bond determinations are made based on an assessment of an immigrant’s potential danger to the community and the risk that they will not attend their removal proceedings, but instead going into hiding. In many of these cases, women and children have come to this country seeking protection and have turned themselves in at the border. They have very few resources. The chance that they will post a bond and not attend future court hearings is highly unlikely. A denial of bond, or a very high bond, should be reserved for individuals with a criminal history who have already proven that they pose a danger to society, or that they are likely to not show up for a scheduled hearing.

Expense and risk are not the only issues that cause concern to many; detention in these remote facilities means less access to paid or pro bono legal services. Although detainees at the Artesia center are provided a list of pro bono services, the services listed are hours away and the detainees often have no means of contacting them. If they elect to hire private counsel, they will have to look elsewhere as well, as the nearest immigration attorney is approximately an hour away from the facility. Volunteer attorneys who have traveled to Artesia to offer pro bono services note that there is not even a business center in the town of Artesia where an attorney can make photocopies or send faxes.

In response to the proposed development of the Dilley facility, several prominent Democratic senators recently wrote a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security. In that letter, found at http://www.leahy.senate.gov/download/101614-to-johnson-re-dilley-detention-center, the senators wrote:

“The administration’s practice of opposing bond in all of these cases, even those cases in which credible fear has been established and where there is no evidence of danger to the community or risk of flight, furthers the injustice for those families detained and unnecessarily increases the demand for bed space. Concerns over flight risk can be ameliorated through Alternatives to Detention (ATD), which help ensure the appearance of asylum seekers in immigration proceedings and are more cost effective.”

From the outside, it certainly seems that inexpensive and humane alternatives are low on the administration’s priority list, and one can’t help but wonder why – or wonder what priorities are more important. Several Democratic senators, at least, are left wondering.

Immigrant Flood Victims Should Seek Assistance

Were you affected by the recent floods in Colorado? Even undocumented persons are eligible for federal and local assistance.

If your home and belongings were damaged or destroyed, you are eligible for assistance from the federal government through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Although people without immigration status do not qualify for cash assistance from FEMA, they can receive benefits in many other forms. FEMA is encouraging all flood victims, regardless of status, to register for assistance. If one member of the household is a citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR), the entire household may qualify for assistance from FEMA, since only one member of the household must be eligible for assistance. An attorney can assist you in determining if you qualify for FEMA assistance. To apply for more information on FEMA’s program, go to: http://www.disasterassistance.gov/.

Other benefits available to undocumented persons include crisis counseling, disaster legal services, transportation, emergency medical care, food, water and other emergency supplies. Many large charities, including the Red Cross and the Salvation Army will also assist any victim of the floods without revealing their immigration status. You can receive medical assistance, food and supplies from these and other organizations.

If you are an immigrant and flood victim in need of legal services, free legal assistance is available through Colorado Flood Legal Relief.  Aretz & Chisholm Immigration has offered their legal services through this non-profit effort. For assistance, you may contact the hotline at (855) 424-5347 or request help online:: http://colofloodlegalrelief.org/contact/.

For more information on the situation of immigrants affected by recent flooding, see http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_24126943/flooding-brings-fear-and-devastation-colorado-immigrants.

TPS Re-Registration Periods Closing Soon

Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) is currently available to nationals of the following designated countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria.  TPS has been extended for Syria and El Salvador, and the re-registration periods are closing soon. Re-registration for El Salvador ends July 29, 2013, and TPS protection has been extended through March 9, 2015. Re-registration for Syria ends August 16, 2013, and TPS protection has been extended through March 31, 2015. Please keep in mind that continuous presence dates have changed, and the last day for initial registration for Syrian TPS is December 16, 2013.  Applications must be post-marked by that date.  For more information, visit http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/, and select “Temporary Protected Status” in the “Humanitarian” category.

DHS Announces Application Process for Deferred Action, IPC Provides Data on Where Eligible Individuals Reside

August 3, 2012 

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released important details about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process, which will temporarily allow some eligible youth to go to school and work without fear of deportation. A recent Immigration Policy Center (IPC) report, Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative, provides the most detailed look to date at who is likely to benefit from the new program and where they are located in the country.

The IPC estimates that roughly 936,930 undocumented youth between the ages of 15 and 30 might immediately qualify to apply for the new program. The new report breaks down the deferred action-eligible population by nationality and age at the national and state level, as well as by congressional district.

Because potential applicants reside in all states and every congressional district, today’s announcement clarifying the application process sets the stage for an intense period of preparation around the country, as communities wait for the request form to be released on August 15. The DACA program is designed for young people who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have resided in the country for at least five years as of June 15, 2012; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.

Among the key points shared by USCIS:

– A new form will be available on August 15. All DACA requests will require payment of the standard $85 biometric fee, but no additional fee will be charged. Persons who wish to receive work authorization must pay, with limited exemptions, the current employment authorization document fee of $365.

– Information provided on the form will be kept confidential, including information relating to applicants’ family members or legal guardians, meaning it will not be used for immigration enforcement proceedings, unless the applicant meets current USCIS criteria for referral to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court.

– DHS will deem “significant” any misdemeanor, regardless of the sentence imposed, involving burglary, domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, unlawful possession of firearms, driving under the influence, or drug distribution or trafficking. In addition, DHS will deem significant any other misdemeanor for which an applicant was sentenced to more than 90 days in jail, not including suspended sentences and time held pursuant to immigration detention.  Minor traffic offenses and convictions for immigration-related offenses classified as felonies or misdemeanors by state laws (e.g. Arizona SB 1070) will not be considered.

Most of the potential beneficiaries of deferred action live in large immigrant-receiving states like California and Texas, but many also reside in North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, and Washington State, and nearly every state has a significant DREAMer population. Also, while nearly 70 percent of potential beneficiaries are from Mexico, there are significant populations from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. In some states, such as Virginia, the population is quite diverse, with no single dominant nationality.

Knowing who the potential beneficiaries are and where they live will be critical as USCIS initiates this new program. Using this data, USCIS, as well as advocates offering assistance, can locate pockets of potential beneficiaries who may be living in geographic areas that are underserved or who may require information in languages that were unanticipated.

To read the USCIS Guidance and IPC report see:

Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process (USCIS Website)

Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative (IPC Fact Check, July 2012)

For press inquiries contact, Wendy Sefsaf at  202-812-2499  or wsefsaf@immcouncil.org.


The Immigration Policy Center (IPC), established in 2003, is the policy arm of the American Immigration Council. IPC’s mission is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration. Through its research and analysis, IPC provides policymakers, the media, and the general public with accurate information about the role of immigrants and immigration policy on U.S. society. IPC reports and materials are widely disseminated and relied upon by press and policy makers. IPC staff regularly serves as experts to leaders on Capitol Hill, opinion-makers and the media. IPC is a non-partisan organization that neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office.

 Division of the American Immigration Council.    

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