Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Many Asylum Seekers Jailed and Mistreated

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Many Asylum Seekers Jailed and Mistreated

Article excerpt

A commission set up by Congress has found some people who cross U.S. borders seeking a haven from persecution or torture are being unfairly held by the U.S. government in jails and jail-like facilities.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released a report Feb. 7 detailing "serious and systemic problems in the implementation off the current asylum process. Some of these problems "may result in the improper removal of refugees to countries where they may face persecution," the report said. Additionally, asylum seekers are often detained in "inappropriate conditions," according to the report.

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., a member of the commission, said he was "deeply moved" by the mistreatment of detainees.

Congress established the commission in 1998 and authorized it to conduct an inquiry into whether the expedited removal process--under which immigration officials can detain and promptly deport immigrants arriving without documentation--is sufficiently protecting all immigrants who hake legitimate asylum claims.

Experts appointed by the commission found procedures to protect asylum seekers under expedited removal were applied inconsistently. Also, most asylum seekers were detained in facilities resembling prisons--some actually in jarls with convicted criminals. These flaws, the report stated, are not being resolved because of poor coordination between the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

Immigrants' rights advocates point to the commission's recent findings as evidence that the current system is too restrictive and heavily flawed, and they say that a new bill being considered by the U. …

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