Thousands Awaiting “Reasonable Fear” Determinations Could Be Affected By Dhs Settlement
Thousands of immigrants have been in detention for months awaiting a “reasonable fear” determination. This could change under a proposed settlement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Pursuant to United States immigration law, when a person is facing final deportation orders but expresses a fear of returning to his or her country of origin, he or she is entitled to a determination on whether the fear is reasonable. The determination must be made within 10 days.
According to a July 8, 2015 ACLU press release, “Detained immigrants fearing persecution to get quicker asylum reviews,” the U.S. government has violated this law in thousands of cases. The “proposed agreement is an important re-statement of U.S. law and American values of justice,” said ACLU SoCal staff attorney Michael Kaufman.
The settlement agreement is in response to a November 2014 court ruling which found that DHS was likely violating the law. “Many of these asylum seekers have languished for months in immigration jails – some give up meritorious claims in the face of prolonged detention and risk further persecution upon deportation. The proposed agreement will help ensure that asylum seekers are not forced to forego their claims to avoid unnecessary detention,” said Claudia Valenzuela, associate director of litigation at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC)
Pursuant to the settlement agreement, DHS will agree to a national average of 10 days to complete reasonable fear determinations and no more than 20 days to complete any individual reasonable fear determination. The agreement requires expeditious processing of class members’ claims from apprehension to issuance of “reasonable fear” determinations.
Furthermore, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must refer immigrants who qualify for a reasonable fear determination to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “immediately, as practicable.” And within a year from date of agreement referrals from ICE to USCIS must be made within an average of 5 days.
The settlement agreement also requires DHS to report on a regular basis on whether it is meeting its requirements under the agreement, and DHS must update its training procedures and manuals to reflect the requirements of the proposed agreement.
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