Five Incarcerated Refugee Families Finally Released After Being Held for Months on End

September 10, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the American Immigration Council, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), partners in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, responded to Friday’s release of five families who had been subjected to many months of incarceration despite repeated efforts to advocate for their release pending the adjudication of their claims for protection in the United States. 

Michelle Mendez, CLINIC's CARA Project Coordinator stated, “More than 13 months ago, the first of these five families was detained in a temporary facility in Artesia, New Mexico. In those ensuing months, the Artesia facility closed, but this refuge-seeking mother and child were not released. Instead, they were shuttled to another remote family detention facility in Dilley, Texas. It was here that they bravely continued to seek protection under our laws and attempted to access what justice they could from within a securitized detention facility. Now, finally, they have been released and can pursue their legal claims in a meaningful way with the assistance of their families and the support of their community and church.”

“This was not a situation where people just slipped through the cracks, and the government fixed the problem after discovering its mistake,” noted Melissa Crow, Legal Director for the American Immigration Council. She continued, “CARA Project volunteers represented most of these mothers and children every step of the way, filing additional petitions and even damages claims in some cases. Our advocacy staff repeatedly raised concerns surrounding the traumatic impact of detention on the mental and physical health of children and their mothers. Our calls went unheeded until now.”

“The government announced in May that it had a new policy that would require re-evaluation of families who had languished in detention more than ninety days and they announced more planned improvements in June,” stated Jonathan Ryan, RAICES Executive Director. He continued, “Months later, these ten refugees are able to leave. Promises of change without meaningful results will never be enough. There is no humane way to detain families and the federal government’s refusal to acknowledge that is shameful.”

AILA’s Associate Director of Advocacy Karen Lucas concluded, “The fight for these families, and all of the other children and mothers still incarcerated, will continue until the Obama Administration turns away from this abhorrent and inhumane policy and meets its obligations to refugee families in a rational and welcoming manner. Our country’s history and values require us to set the standard for refugee and asylum-seeker treatment, not fail to meet the lowest bar.”


For press inquiries, please contact:

AILA: Belle Woods, [email protected], 202-507-7675
Council: Wendy Feliz, [email protected], 202-507-7524
RAICES: Mohammad Abdollahi, [email protected], 210-544-7811
CLINIC: Ashley Feasley, [email protected], 301-565-4831

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