Immigrant Rights Advocates Denounce AG Barr’s Decision to Punish, Intimidate Asylum Seekers

April 17th, 2019

Immigrant Rights Advocates Denounce AG Barr’s Decision to Punish, Intimidate Asylum Seekers

NEW YORK, NY – Yesterday, Attorney General William Barr ruled that many asylum seekers will be detained until their asylum applications are decided, without possibility of being released on a bond. His ruling reversed previous interpretations of immigration law by the Department of Justice, which, since 2005, had guaranteed the right of immigrants with claims of “credible fear” to be released after paying a bond.

The decision will likely lead to tens of thousands of asylum seekers being locked away in detention centers, most of whom will be held in private prisons in isolated areas with no access to lawyers or resources, with no sense of when they might be released.

“Attorney General Barr’s decision is basically the next step of the infamous “zero tolerance” policy. This move is clearly meant to intimidate asylum seekers and undermine their right to due process and protections. These are human beings fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, and they should be welcomed and protected. But the Trump Administration is locking them behind bars in overcrowded, inhumane detention centers, preventing them from getting out, and letting them suffer there for an indefinite amount of time. It’s inhumane, nonsensical and completely gratuitous,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.


Attorney General William Barr’s ruling, which will go into effect in 90 days, reverses the ruling of an immigration appeals decision in Matter of X- K- guaranteeing asylum seekers the right to request bond hearings and to be released on bond while they waited for their cases to be heard. The decision is part of the Trump Administration’s continued attempts to deter migrants from traveling to the United States to seek asylum.

His decision comes as backlogs in immigration courts are at historic highs, with the average case taking over 500 days to complete and the immigration system overall being at an almost untenable breaking point. In New York State, the immigration court backlogs are near 115,000 cases, leading some judges to delay scheduling new hearings for several years. Many asylum seekers are detained at the Federal Facility in Batavia, New York, where already-high bonds have kept migrants detained for months or years as community groups have scrambled to respond to the needs.