Under the Trump administration, parole approvals for asylum-seekers have dropped sharply, despite a still-applicable 2009 policy directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release asylum-seekers who lawfully present themselves at official ports of entry, establish their identity and show that they are not a danger or flight risk. The SPLC and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a federal class action suit on behalf of 12 named plaintiffs confined to remote prisons by the New Orleans Field Office, including facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, alleging that this region of ICE has stopped complying with the 2009 Parole Directive, and is implementing a blanket parole denial policy.
The stark drop in parole can be seen at the ICE New Orleans Field Office, where in 2016, it granted parole in 75.5 percent of cases. By 2018, however, the office granted parole in just two of 130 cases in 2018 – a rate of 1.5 percent.
Cuban political refugees, represented in this lawsuit, are among the hundreds of people languishing in Louisiana immigration prisons after lawfully seeking asylum in the United States. The lawsuit highlights the impact of the dehumanizing treatment – especially the excessive use of solitary confinement and inadequate health care – received daily in immigration prisons, many of which are operated for-profit by private corporations.
ICE’s refusal to consider the release of these asylum seekers on a case-by-case basis violates federal law, costs taxpayers millions of dollars each month, and causes untold suffering to the men and women who seek legal protection inside the United States.