By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. July 4, 2018: A case filed by a Caribbean immigrant in detention has left the Trump administration facing a legal setback to its immigration policies.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, in Washington, D.C., ruled that the government may not arbitrarily detain people seeking asylum. The ruling comes in a case challenging the administration’s policy of detaining people even after they have passed a credible fear interview and await a hearing on their asylum claim.
The lead plaintiff in the case is Ansly Damus, a teacher from Haiti, who has been confined in Ohio for more than a year-and-a-half.
He fled his homeland fearing violence and political persecution and asked for asylum in the United States. An immigration judge granted him asylum not just once, but twice.
Still Damus remains locked up indefinitely as the government appeals those decisions.
But Judge Boasberg, in his 38-page opinion, said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated its own procedures by not granting Damus release under what’s known as humanitarian parole.
“This opinion does no more than hold the government accountable to its own policy, which recently has been honored more in the breach than the observance. Having extended the safeguards of the Parole Directive to asylum seekers, ICE must now ensure that such protections are realized,” Judge Boasberg wrote.
He ordered the government to conduct case-by-case reviews of more than a thousand other asylum-seekers who have been denied release by those five ICE field offices.
The judge’s decision came in response to a lawsuit filed in March by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
“The ruling in the Damus case stands for the principle that the government cannot apply a blanket policy of detaining asylum seekers for the purpose of deterring people from coming into the United States to seek asylum,” said ACLU deputy legal director Cecillia Wang.
Typically, asylum-seekers must pass a “credible fear” interview to convince authorities that they face a threat of persecution at home. If they pass, they are usually eligible for release pending a hearing, unless they are considered a flight risk or a danger to the public. At least, that is how it worked during the Obama administration.
But according to the ACLU lawsuit, everything changed under the Trump administration. Asylum-seekers in five ICE field offices in Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark and Philadelphia are being detained with no hope of being released.
A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on Judge Boasberg’s ruling.