- - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“Mexican drug cartels exploit asylum system by claiming ‘credible fear’” (Web, Nov. 21) fails to mention the harmful impact of immigration detention on legitimate asylum seekers and the strong support for our country’s parole policy from leaders, including the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Through our pro bono legal representation program, Human Rights First works with hundreds of asylum seekers applying for protection in the United States. Some of them have made their claim for protection when crossing the border. As noted in your article, the parole process through which eligible asylum seekers may be assessed for release directs that those who present a danger to the community should not be released for parole. Additionally, as the Department of Homeland Security official quoted in the article pointed out, the United States already requires that asylum seekers go through many background checks. If there are deficiencies in the checks used during that process, the government can and should take steps to improve them, but the solution is not to reverse protections in our system for legitimate asylum seekers.

Even today, many asylum seekers are held under “inappropriate conditions in jails and jaillike facilities,” according to a 2013 report by USCIRF. The organization welcomed the 2009 parole directive and in 2013 recommended putting the policy into regulation.

Rather than changing guidelines that may force legitimate asylum seekers to be detained for months or longer in these conditions, our leaders should pursue pragmatic policies that target wrongdoers and are consistent with our nation’s commitment to protect those fleeing persecution.

KATHARINA OBSER
Senior associate, Refugee Protection
Human Rights First
Washington

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