For the last year, the Trump administration has undertaken a massive and secretive expansion of its mass-detention state – right in our own backyard.
The number of immigrant detention facilities in Louisiana has increased five-fold: from 2 in 2018 to 11 as of July. Many of these immigrants are asylum-seekers and refugees who are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, only to be warehoused in brutal conditions and systematically denied parole.
Detainees report rampant violence, a lack of medical care, and people being placed in solitary confinement. The people being detained are so desperate that they are staging hunger strikes.
We’re fighting back against this effort to criminalize asylum – and recently, together with our partners at SPLC, we scored a decisive victory.
A federal court granted our request and ordered the Trump administration to immediately restore the right to parole to asylum-seekers who have been so inhumanely and brutally imprisoned.
ICE has an official policy to release asylum-seekers who satisfy the legal requirements.
But under the Trump administration, parole approvals for asylum-seekers have dropped off a cliff. At the ICE New Orleans Field office, the rate of parole approvals has dropped from 75.5 percent in 2016 to just 1.5 percent in 2018. Currently, the number of paroles granted in 2019 is down to zero.
Seeking asylum is not a crime. In fact, the United States has a longstanding commitment under domestic and international law to protecting people fleeing persecution from further harm. But right now families who have followed the rules and met the legal requirements are languishing in private prisons and local jails with no hope of release.
That’s why earlier this year we sued on behalf of 12 plaintiffs who, like hundreds of other migrants, sought asylum in compliance with federal law and then were confined and sent to remote prisons in Louisiana and Alabama.
The preliminary injunction we won against this unlawful policy is a big win, but our fight isn’t over yet.
The U.S Supreme Court last week allowed the Trump administration to enforce its cruel and unlawful asylum ban – a temporary step, but a devastating one for families along the southern border fleeing for their lives.
As we continue this battle in the courts, all of us have a responsibility to speak out against the hateful rhetoric and policies that have terrorized immigrant communities and undermined our shared values.
U.S. citizens, like our client Ramon Torres, have been racially profiled and detained for ICE because of the color of their skin. Others, like asylum-seeker Yoel Alonso Leal, have been summarily deported over the objections of more than 100 doctors who warned the flight might kill him.
This is unfair, unjust, and deeply un-American – and we’re not backing down from our fight against it.
That’s why it’s important for local officials to stand up and refuse to cooperate with the Trump administration’s mass deportation force, and reject harmful agreements like 287(g). And Congress must press the Trump administration to reduce detention and promptly investigate detainee deaths.
Together we can stand up to this racist and deeply harmful agenda and restore the promise of a more just, inclusive America.