William Barr, the U.S. Attorney General, struck down on Tuesday a decision that formally allowed some asylum seekers to ask for bond in front of an immigration judge. This ruling expands indefinite detention for some migrants who must wait months or years for their cases to be heard.
The first immigration court ruling from President Donald Trump’s newly appointed Attorney General is in keeping with the administration’s moves to clamp down on the asylum process. This effort is being put in place as tens of thousands of mostly Central Americans cross into the United States asking for refuge.
The Justice Department oversees the U.S. immigration courts and the Attorney General can rule in cases to set legal precedent. Barr’s decision applies to migrants who crossed illegally into the United States.
Barr’s ruling is the most recent instance of the Trump administration taking a hard line on immigration. The administration implemented a policy this year to return some asylum seekers to Mexico while their cases work their way through backlogged courts, a policy which has been challenged with a lawsuit.
Several top officials at the Department of Homeland Security were forced out this month because of Trump’s frustrations with an influx of migrants seeking refuge at the U.S. southern border.
Previously the migrants affected are placed in “expedited removal” proceedings. This is a faster form of deportation reserved for people who illegally entered the country within the last two weeks and are detained within 100 miles of a land border. Migrants who present themselves at ports of entry and ask for asylum are not eligible for bond.
Before Barr’s ruling, those who had crossed the border between official entry points and asked for asylum were eligible for bond. This was available once they had proven to asylum officers they had a credible fear of persecution.
“I conclude that such aliens remain ineligible for bond, whether they are arriving at the border or are apprehended in the United States,” Barr wrote.
Barr said now these migrants can be held in immigration detention until their cases conclude, or if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides to release them by granting them “parole.” DHS has the discretion to parole people who are not eligible for bond and frequently does so due to insufficient detention space or other humanitarian reasons.
The decision’s full impact is not known, because it will depend on DHS’ ability to expand detention, according to Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.
“The number of asylum seekers who will remain in potentially indefinite detention pending disposition of their cases will be almost entirely a question of DHS’s detention capacity, and not whether the individual circumstances of individual cases warrant release or detention,” Vladeck said.
Credit: Daily Mail