Last month, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson made a major announcement regarding the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy of detaining women and children asylum-seekers from Central America in family detention centers in remote parts of Texas and New Mexico.
Secretary Johnson announced that detained families who have passed the initial step in the asylum process – showing that they have a credible or reasonable fear of persecution in their home countries – may be released on bond. Further, Secretary Johnson stated that ICE would make efforts to set bond amounts at a reasonable level, taking into account ability to pay, flight risk, and public safety.
Since this announcement, attorneys and advocates on the ground representing detained families have noted an increase in the number of individuals released. ICE is not publicy confirming the number of individuals still housed in family detention, however it is believed to be in the thousands.
Immigration and civil rights attorneys and activists have long called for an end to the blanket family detention policy, questioning not only the humanity of long-term detention of families fleeing persecution, but also arguing that the practice violates international conventions and constitutional law.
The family detention program was created in response to the wave, beginning in summer of 2014, of women and children from Central America crossing the Southern border to seek asylum in the United States.