HIAS Welcomes New ICE Procedures for Asylum Seekers

Posted on Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 17:19 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, welcomes the new procedures for asylum seekers announced yesterday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to Mark Hetfield, Senior Vice President for Program & Policy, this is “a step in the right direction” toward fair treatment of asylum seekers.

“Many asylum seekers fled their homelands to avoid being jailed on account of their beliefs, only to find that upon arrival in the United States, they were jailed just for seeking asylum,” he explained. “For years the United States had a policy favoring the release of asylum seekers, but in fact, ICE and earlier INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) did not follow their own policies, and asylum seekers were released only when there was a shortage of beds.

“In November 2007, the Bush Administration announced a policy that made it very difficult to release asylum seekers. This new policy is a step in the right direction, and this time Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton seem to be introducing enforcement procedures.”

He cautioned that it will be necessary for NGO’s, like HIAS, “to keep a close eye on the implementation, to see that this policy is followed, and that those asylum seekers who present little flight or security risk are not incarcerated just for seeking asylum.”

HIAS’ Asylum Unit provides legal representation for those seeking asylum in the U.S. The HIAS-Prins program, established in 2007 by a major grant from the Vivian G. Prins Foundation, provides representation for artists, scientists, scholars, and other professionals, and their families who have been persecuted in their native country. Additionally, HIAS represents detained survivors of torture who seek asylum in the U.S. and currently are incarcerated in the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey; local county correctional facilities; or elsewhere in the New York-metropolitan area. This service is funded by the Lutheran Immigrant & Refugee Service (LIRS).