The U.S. Justice Department has made a policy shift that could put some undocumented migrants in jail for an indefinite period of time, until their asylum claims can be processed.
Attorney General William Barr announced the change Tuesday night, which will take effect in three months. It allows authorities to jail migrants without bail in what are already described as crowded federal facilities.
“The question presented is whether aliens who are originally placed in expedited proceedings and then transferred to full proceedings after establishing a credible fear become eligible for bond upon transfer,” Barr wrote in the announcement.
“I conclude that such aliens remain ineligible for bond, whether they are arriving at the border or are apprehended in the United States.”
Immigration advocates argue the new rule could lock up migrants who have legitimate asylum claims for months. The department said the new policy ends the department’s “catch and release” process, in which immigrants are released into the United States until their hearing. President Donald Trump has long criticized the system.
“The attorney general’s decision is the latest attempt by this administration to punish asylum seekers for seeking refuge in the United States by locking them up in immigration prisons,” ACLU attorney Michael Tan told NBC News.
“But the constitution does not allow the government to incarcerate asylum seekers without basic due process. We’ll see the administration in court.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement already holds 45,000 to 50,000 migrants a day, but cannot hold children for more than 20 days. In March, 60 percent of the more than 100,000 apprehensions at the border were families and unaccompanied children.
“From separating families to attacking asylum seekers, this administration’s bottomless cruelty has failed time and time again,” said Julian Castro, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former mayor of San Antonio. “We need compassion, not cruelty in our immigration system.”
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