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Parole RFI Families: National Organizational Sign On Letter

As originally posted at:
Jeh Johnson Sara Saldana
Director, DHS Assistant Director, ICE
Washington D.C. Washington D.C.We, the undersigned, write to you with grave concern over the Administration’s current position to deny parole to all families who receive positive findings following the completion of a Reasonable Fear Interview (RFI) before the U.S. Asylum Office. We urge you to immediately reverse this policy and to grant parole for families once they successfully complete the RFI process and receive positive findings.

Although bonds are afforded to mothers whose fears of returning to their home countries are found to be credible by an asylum officer, neither ICE nor the immigration judges will grant bonds to RFI families who have overcome an even higher standard of proof. The withholding of bond, along with the ICE policy of denying parole to all Positive Reasonable Fear applicants, have resulted in excessively long detention periods for these families. According to USCIS data, at least 100 such families are currently being held in family detention facilities located in Karnes, TX; Dilley, TX and Berks, PA. On average, these children and their mothers are detained for nine months to one year, with several having already been detained for more than a year.

The following stories highlight RFI families who are in limbo, unless your agency grants parole:

— Sonia Cruz (A#205-722-426) and her 9 year-old son, Orbin, have been detained at the Berks Family Residential Center since May 14, 2014. In July of 2014, Ms. Cruz was found to have a positive Reasonable Fear finding and should have been granted parole. In January, Orbin turned 9 years old in detention, a kind of trauma that no young child should have to face. Ms. Cruz’s case is currently on appeal; however, without a grant of parole, Orbin and his mother will likely be detained for yet another year.

— Polyane Soares (A#202-004-494) and her 10 year old daughter, Rhynara, have been detained at the Karnes Family Residential Center since August 1st, 2014. Ms. Soares was found to have a positive Reasonable Fear finding soon after arriving at the facility, with her daughter having been granted Credible Fear. On May 5th, Ms. Soares’ request for parole was denied, despite her having strong ties to the community in Massachusetts, where her two United States Citizen children live. Her children in Massachusetts are suffering emotionally and behaviorally, which is then impacting their education, as a result of their prolonged separation from their loving mother. Ms. Soares’ case is currently on appeal; she should be paroled and allowed to continue her case from her home in Boston, MA.

— Lilian Oliva-Bardales (A#206-769-267) and her 4 year old were detained at Karnes Family Residential Center since arriving to the United States on October 6th, 2014 after escaping severe domestic violence in her home country of Honduras. Ms. Oliva-Bardales was found to have a positive Reasonable Fear finding soon after arriving at the facility. Ms. Oliva-Bardales’s request for parole was denied and on the afternoon of June 3rd, 2015 she attempted suicide as a direct result of the trauma associated with her prolonged detention and denied parole. After being held in isolation away from her 4 year old son, Lilian and her son were deported in the early morning of June 9th, less than one week after her suicide attempt.Ms. Oliva-Bardales’s story is representative of the anguish that long-term detention inflicts upon families and shows the immediacy of our call for parole to be urgently granted to these families. Long-term detention is extremely traumatic for families, especially for children. Due to the inadequate medical and psychological care, limited access to recreation and visitation, use of medical isolation and poor conditions, long term detention only exacerbates the trauma that these families faced in their home countries and during their travel to the United States. For children, this impact is more severe, inhibiting cognitive, emotional, and intellectual development that will have lasting effects beyond their term of detention.

Each undersigned organization believes that the indefinite and prolonged detention of families who been found to have a fear of returning to their home countries following their RFIs to be both unjust and harmful to the families’ health and well-being. We urge for an immediate reversal of this policy and for parole to be granted to all RFI families with positive reasonable fear findings.

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