Court Blocks Another Trump Immigration Order; DHS-IG Finds 'Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention'

Susan Jones | July 3, 2019 | 7:30am EDT
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Overcrowding of families observed by DHS-OIG on June 10, 2019, at Border Patrol’s McAllen, TX, Station. (Source: OIG)

( - A federal court in Seattle on Tuesday delivered another setback to the Trump administration's immigration control efforts.

The court said illegal immigrants seeking asylum must be given bond hearings within seven days of requesting one; and those who are in detention for more than seven days without such a hearing must be released.

Further, the ruling said the burden of proof is on the Department of Homeland Security, which must demonstrate why an illegal immigrant should not be released on bond.

On April 16, Attorney General William Barr issued an order saying aliens must be detained until their asylum claim of “credible fear” is adjudicated. Tuesday's court ruling blocks Barr's order.

Michael Tan, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, "The court forcefully rejected the Trump administration’s bid to arbitrarily jail asylum-seekers without a hearing. Try as it may, the administration cannot circumvent the Constitution in its effort to deter and punish asylum-seekers applying for protection.”

‘Dangerous overcrowding’

Also on Tuesday, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security released a report, complete with photographs, titled, "DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley."

"During the week of June 10, 2019, we traveled to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and again observed serious overcrowding and prolonged detention in Border Patrol facilities requiring immediate attention," the report says.

Overcrowding of families observed by OIG on June 11, 2019, at Border Patrol’s McAllen, TX, Centralized Processing Center. (Source: OIG)

The report noted that the Rio Grande Valley has the highest volume of people crossing the Southwest border, with nearly a quarter million apprehensions in the first eight months of FY 2019. "This total represents a 124 percent increase compared to the same period in FY 2018, with the greatest increase in family units."

The DHS inspector general said Customs and Border Protection was holding around 8,000 detainees when inspectors arrived on June 10, and more than 3,400 had been held longer than the 72 hours allotted for processing. And of those 3,400 detainees, Border Patrol held 1,500 for more than 10 days.

According to the report:

CBP is responsible solely for providing short-term detention for aliens arriving in the United States without valid travel documents. CBP detains such individuals on a short-term basis to allow for initial processing, and then transfers the individuals to other government agencies.

However, even when CBP has completed its initial processing obligations, it cannot transfer detainees out of its facilities until U.S. Immigration and Customs

Enforcement (ICE) has space for single adults and some families, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has space for UACs (unaccompanied children).

Currently, because both ICE and HHS are operating at or above capacity, CBP has experienced increasing instances of prolonged detention in its facilities.

The DHS IG’s "management alert" addresses overcrowding at four of the five Rio Grande Border Patrol facilities and prolonged detention at all five facilities. It also addresses security incidents in those facilities.

Despite the Trump administration's repeated urging, Congress refuses to do anything to discourage the enormous increase in illegal immigration. Many of the would-be asylum-seekers are coming here, not to escape persecution, but to escape poverty.

The sheer numbers – as well as existing policy and court rulings -- guarantee that many of the undocumented immigrants eventually will be released into the U.S. on a promise to appear for their immigration hearing. Many do not show up.

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