Immigration Law

Detaining Families: A Study of Asylum Adjudication in Family Detention

Ingrid Eagly, Esq., Steven Shafer, Esq. and Jana Whalley, Esq., American Immigration Council, August 16, 2018 - "The United States currently detains more protection-seeking families than any nation in the world. Since 2001, parents and their children have been held at various times in five different detention facilities in New Mexico, Texas, and Pennsylvania, as they seek asylum in the United States. The number of detention beds reserved exclusively for families has ballooned since the first facility opened in 2001. Between 2001 and 2016, capacity reserved exclusively for detaining families increased by an astronomical 3,400 percent. Yet, despite this growth in detention, little is known about how these families fare in the immigration court process and what barriers they face in pursuing their asylum claims. This information is particularly important as government officials and policymakers weigh the use and potential expansion of family detention. This report presents findings from the first empirical analysis of asylum adjudication in family detention. Drawing on government data from over 18,000 immigration court proceedings initiated between fiscal years 2001 and 2016, this report documents how families detained in the United States’ family detention centers proceeded through the court process. The analysis of court data and government records presented in this report reveals an expanding system of detention that imprisons families seeking asylum, sometimes for prolonged periods, and presents serious hurdles to a fair court process."

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