Detained Asylum Seekers Sue DHS to End Long Waits for 'Reasonable Fear' Interviews

"ACLU Foundation of Southern California, ACLU of Northern California, and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), along with the international law firm Reed Smith LLP, today filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California on behalf of thousands of immigrants fleeing persecution who have faced months of detention while they await reasonable fear determinations, the first step in seeking protection in the United States when someone is forced to return following a deportation order.

“U.S. law and American values of justice demand that those who come to our country seeking safety deserve a fair and timely decision about their applications, particularly if they are detained,” said Michael Kaufman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “The Obama administration has failed to provide that.”

U.S. law mandates that when individuals who have been previously deported from the United States are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and express a fear of returning to their countries of origin, they must receive a reasonable fear determination within 10 days as to whether their fear is reasonable and whether they can proceed with a hearing on their application for protection before an immigration judge. The U.S. government has violated this law in thousands of cases where individuals have waited for three months or more, usually while detained, for their interviews and decisions. Because individuals who receive positive determinations are not automatically eligible for release from detention, the delays in receiving reasonable fear determinations further extend the often lengthy period of detention individuals already face during the rigorous asylum process." - ACLU, Apr. 17, 2014.

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