US deportation practices hurting asylum-seekers: report

US deportation practices hurting asylum-seekers: report

[JURIST] Legitimate asylum seekers in the US may be ignored or detained for months or even years given the current expedited removal [JURIST report] practices of domestic security officials, according to a report card [text] released Thursday by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (CIRF) [official website], a bipartisan commission established by Congress in 1998. The report finds fault with current procedures for conducting "credible-fear" interviews, where agents of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has jurisdiction over asylum-seekers, determine whether an immigrant has a credible fear of torture or a fear of returning home, which in turn expedites the process for the asylum seeker, whose case will then be heard before an immigration judge.

The report card was released to assess how well government agencies have complied with recommendations made in a 2005 CIRF report [text; press release], which found that there were serious flaws in implementation of the expedited removal process and alleged that asylum seekers are often subjected to inhumane treatment. According to CIRF:

[T]wo years later, most of the Study's recommendations have not been implemented. The Commission's overarching recommendation was that Expedited Removal not be expanded until the serious problems identified by the Study—which place vulnerable asylum seekers at risk—were resolved. Despite this recommendation, and the failure to resolve the problems cited in the study, DHS has in fact expanded Expedited Removal from a port-of-entry program to one that covers the entire land and sea border of the United States. DHS has also moved to expand Expedited Removal to include most Salvadorans who are otherwise entitled to special procedural protections at the border due to a long-standing court injunction in the Orantes v Gonzales case.

CIRF examined agencies that are involved in the expedited removal process and gave Customs and Border Protection a failing grade and Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DHS as a whole both received Ds. The Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review received a C+ and DHS and the Justice Department's joint efforts received grades ranging from C-F. The asylum office of Citizenship and Immigration Services received the highest grade with a B.

Though DHS has failed to act on many of the recommendations in the 2005 report, the Department did appoint a senior advisor for refugee and asylum policy [press release], which was the report's most important recommendation, and one supported by a coalition of human rights groups [letter, PDF]. The New York Times has more.