In 2009, ICE issued new parole standards: If arriving asylum seekers pass a "credible fear" interview, they can be eligible for release. At these, a government interviewer, often with a translator's help, asks the detainee about his or her background and whether he or she has ever been threatened or harmed due to race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, political opinion, sexuality, or other factors.

"In the perverse way the system works right now, if you come to the border and ask for asylum, you're considered a defensive asylum applicant."

Still, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report in April 2013 concluding that ICE "continues to detain asylum seekers under inappropriate conditions in jails and jail-like facilities."

A spokesman for ICE did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this article.


Cecilia Cortes is in detention indefinitely, even though she had lived in Florida for ten years and her children are citizens. The family fled from drug-related gang violence in Mexico.
Courtesy of Javier Galvan
Cecilia Cortes is in detention indefinitely, even though she had lived in Florida for ten years and her children are citizens. The family fled from drug-related gang violence in Mexico.
Women wait outside the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, where 700 detainees are housed. Most do not have criminal records.
Jacob Katel
Women wait outside the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, where 700 detainees are housed. Most do not have criminal records.

Jessica Shulruff, senior attorney with Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice, says the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach currently houses at least 25 women from Honduras, El Salvador, and other Central American countries who are seeking asylum because they face gender-based persecution if they return to their home countries. The women crossed the Mexico-Texas border, but ICE transferred them to Pompano due to a lack of beds in Lone Star State facilities. Americans for Immigrant Justice is providing the women with civil rights presentations and legal advice.

"Once they are at BTC, most of the individuals go through the credible-fear interview," Shulruff says. "Agents along the border are either not letting immigrants know about the credible-fear interview or simply ignore requests for one."

The women have legit claims of fear, Shulruff relates. "One El Salvadoran had been with a very abusive husband for more than 20 years," she says. "She tried to leave him several times, but he would never accept it. She tried to get restraining orders against him, but local police were ambivalent, telling her it was a civil matter." It got to the point the woman believed her husband was going to kill her, so she fled to the United States.

Other women, Shulruff says, are victims of violent gangs and corrupt cops. "A gang member or a police officer will decide they want to be with a woman, yet she doesn't," Shulruff says. "The man will track her down, stalk her, brutally rape her, and force her to be with him. Because he wields so much power, there is nothing she can do about it."

They also become victims of professional extortionists. "If they don't pay, the extortionists threaten their families or ransack their businesses," Shulruff says. "In some case, the extortionists have murdered family members to send a message."

Miami immigration attorney Grace Gomez handles asylum cases for Catholic Charities. She's represented a number of gay Jamaican aliens being held at Krome. Jamaica is one of the countries with the worst human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, and transgendered people, Gomez says. "In Jamaica, there is a propensity for homophobic violence," she says. "There have been cases of gay men being drowned or burned to death."

So when such aliens are sent to Krome, ICE will not put them with other Jamaican detainees. "They put gay and transgendered detainees in isolation to protect them from other inmates," she says. "They didn't trust the other Jamaicans to play nice."

In 2011, Gomez represented a transgendered human rights activist from Jamaica who was put in solitary for three months. He had fled the island nation because he feared he would be murdered if anyone found out he was HIV-positive. "He had already been thrown out of his home and lost his job," Gomez says. "His former boyfriend was murdered too."

She says he was sent to Krome after being convicted of a minor crime, petty theft. "He had not completed the surgery, but he was dressing like a woman and taking hormones," Gomez says. "Luckily we won asylum for him, and he was able to move on with his life."

Michael Ray, a Miami immigration attorney, says that in some cases, transgendered aliens are put in solitary for up to six months. "When you are seeking freedom from persecution and then ICE detains you, puts you in solitary, and brings you to court in chains — that is torture," Ray opines. "Of course, ICE calls it 'administrative isolation.' They don't call it 'solitary confinement.' "

Of the roughly 68,000 people who applied for asylum in 2012, only 29,000 had their requests approved. Reasons for rejection can run the gamut from security concerns to fraudulent claims, but in many cases, the decision whether to approve an application appears to be cruelly arbitrary.

Even if they are allowed out on bond while awaiting their hearing, asylum seekers aren't allowed to look for employment until 180 days after they've filed their application, and bureaucracy and backlogs can delay work authorization for months. Legally barred from finding a job, they are forced to subsist on handouts.

Shulruff says ICE officials at Broward had been releasing detainees who passed the credible-fear interview pending their immigration court hearing. However, three weeks ago, officials stopped doing that and are now holding immigrants until their hearing, usually presided by Immigration Judge Rex Ford, who has developed a nasty reputation because he denies 96 percent of the cases in which people come before him asking for asylum.

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KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII topcommenter

Laws and sanctions go hand in hand. Without sanctions laws and rules are merely suggestions.

 
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