Help US Asylum Seekers: 4 things you can do

 by Human Rights First

Dear Friends,

Do you know hundreds of Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers are detained in INS (DHS) detention centers around the country, and some of them for two years? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to go through the asylum seeking process? Do you have any idea what they face in the detention centers?


1. Write Secretary Ridge.

Please call or send an e-postcard to Secretary Ridge asking him to improve how the Department of Homeland Security treats refugees.

The asylum detention system lacks the kinds of safeguards necessary to promote due process and guard against unfair and arbitrary detention. For example:

**The initial determination to detain an asylum seeker is not the result of an individualized determination, but is instead mandatory.

**Subsequent parole decisions are entrusted to the Department of Homeland Security, which is the detaining authority, rather than to an independent authority.

**The parole criteria applied by INS, now DHS, are set forth only in guidelines rather than in enforceable regulations.

**The system does not provide for an appeal of parole denials to an independent judge.

Write to Secretary Thomas Ridge and urge him to ensure fair policies for refugees seeking asylum.

2. Watch Court TV's movie 'Chasing Freedom' on February 22 and learn more about the asylum process. (More information below)

3. Visit or write a refugee in detention. Sojourners is a non-profit that arranges pen pals and visits for refugees in detention. Prolonged detention has a range of negative health consequences for asylum seekers - including depression. Visits and letters from caring people help ease this sadness, and give refugees hope. To find out more, contact:

In the New York area there are 2 detention centers: one in Elizabeth, NJ and one near Kennedy Airport. There are other detention centers around the country. Asylum seekers are frequently moved to local prisons so they can be located anywhere in the US.

4. Learn more about asylum. For more information please visit the following website:

Please see the information below for a film (based on a true case) on asylum seekers.

Court TV Film, Inspired by Lawyers Committee Case, Shines a Light on U.S. Detention of Asylum Seekers

The young refugee woman portrayed in the film, like so many asylum seekers, arrived in the U.S. without proper documents and was detained by immigration authorities upon her arrival at a U.S. airport. In the last two years, at least 15,300 asylum seekers have been subject to detention at U.S. airports and borders. They are transported to jails and detention facilities often in handcuffs, and often without any clear understanding of why they are being detained. In detention, once they pass a screening interview, asylum seekers are legally eligible to be paroled if they satisfy the INS, now DHS (Department of Homeland Security), parole criteria for asylum seekers


Posted February 3, 2004