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Report Exposes Treatment of Asylum Seekers Denied Parole in Texas

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Human Rights First published a timely report, “Judge and Jailer: Asylum Seekers Denied Parole in Wake of Trump Executive Order,” that exposes the Trump administration’s lengthened detention of asylum seekers following the Executive Order issued on January 25. The research names South Texas as an area where ICE rarely, if ever, grants parole to asylum seekers who meet the criteria of the 2009 ICE Asylum Parole Directive.

The report includes an excerpt from Martín Méndez Pineda’s article in the Washington Post from May 25, 2017 detailing his experience in detention:

“From the first day I crossed the border heading north, I saw discrimination, abuse and humiliation. They transferred me to a privately run detention center called West Texas Detention Facility in the city of Sierra Blanca. There, I experienced the worst days of my life. It is known by the detainees as ‘el gallinero’ (‘the henhouse’), because the barracks resemble a stable for livestock. It was designed for about 60 people but houses more than 100, who are exposed to all kinds of diseases and don’t have access to adequate medical attention. The henhouse of Sierra Blanca is small, with metal bunks, worn-out rubber mattresses, wooden floors, bathrooms with the walls covered in green and yellow mold, weeds everywhere, and snakes and rats that come in the night. The guards look at the detainees with disgust, and everything we say to them is ignored. Honestly, it is hell.”

The report also uncovers that asylum seekers have been denied parole to keep bed spaces filled, while others are granted asylum when space is needed. For example, at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas owned by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA), women who met the criteria for parole have generally been denied release. The research shows this trend changed according to capacity: “Then pro bono attorneys learned that arriving asylum seekers who had passed credible fear screenings were suddenly receiving parole assessments and in some cases were released from detention. This aberration appeared to coincide with an increase in the number of women sent to the facility, suggesting that the parole grants may have been prompted by a need to free up bed space at the facility.”

 

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