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Latest Detention Reform Is a Significant Step toward Restoring Human Rights for Immigrants; Further Changes Needed

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued new policy guidelines today favoring the release of detained asylum seekers who show a credible fear of persecution and do not pose a danger to the community or a flight risk.

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center welcomes the new parole policies, which will help prevent inhumane long-term detention of men and women who come to the United States seeking protection from persecution and torture. However, the new guidelines continue to place an undue burden of proof on detained asylum seekers, particularly with its requirements regarding risk of flight. The new guidelines require asylum seekers to provide evidence of ties to the United States such as a job history, stable residence, record of appearing for court hearings, or property ownership. These are unreasonable requirements to place upon individuals who have just arrived in the country.

“The new parole guidelines are a significant step toward ending the unnecessary detention of asylum seekers, but additional changes are necessary to ensure our country is fulfilling its human rights obligations to offer protection to those fleeing danger,” said Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, National Immigrant Justice Center. “The opportunity for asylum seekers to pursue their cases outside detention means they will have better access to the lawyers, documentation, and information they need to present their cases and have a meaningful day in court.”

Asylum seekers who arrive at a U.S. port of entry and express fear of returning to their native country will still be detained pending an interview with an asylum officer to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution, the first step in the asylum application process. Under the new parole guidelines, however, asylum seekers who pass this credible fear interview will be given a parole interview within seven days to determine whether they are eligible to be released from detention. ICE officers will be responsible for informing asylum seekers of the evidence they will need to present at the parole interview and how it should be submitted. ICE officers must document their parole decisions and, when they deny a parole request, they must issue letters to asylum seekers and their attorneys explaining the decision. Asylum seekers will be permitted seek review of parole denials.

The National Immigrant Justice Center is among a broad coalition of non-governmental organizations that have advocated for reform of the asylum parole guidelines since the Bush administration restricted parole in November 2007. The new guidelines are scheduled to take effect January 4, 2010.


Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit