Many U.S. Asylum Seekers Detained Too Long, Critics Say


There are no statutory limits to the amount of time non-citizens may be held in U.S. immigration detention, says the Village Voice. When the process goes smoothly, asylum seekers are released in a matter of weeks. Many end up imprisoned for much longer. Some 6,000 survivors of torture — exiles from Iran, Myanmar, Syria, and other brutal regimes — were detained in immigration jails while seeking asylum over the past three years, says the Center for Victims of Torture. “It’s really tragic,” says Amelia Wilson of the American Friends Service Committee, a faith-based organization that aids asylum seekers. She adds: “They’re fleeing persecution, and many of them have just fled institutions of incarceration in their home country. Through guile or luck or the right contacts, they manage to get out of their country. They come here and they’re promptly detained. They’re shocked. They’re not criminals. In fact, they’re following the legal procedure the government has put in place for them to get protection.” The Voice says a process created to save innocent lives embodies some of the worst aspects of U.S. immigration policy: The system of mass deportations and incarceration has devastating consequences for vulnerable people who seek safety and a new beginning. House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), says the asylum system is “exploited by illegal immigrants in order to enter and remain in the United States.”

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