Sunday, May 10, 2009


The following appeal is from the Human Rights First organization. It's about how the US government treats asylum seekers. The irony can hardly escape you. People flee to the country that, in the whole world, imprisons the highest percentage of its own population. It is little wonder that they meet the "welcome" that they do. Hope springs eternal I guess, and the United States has a mythology surrounding it that continues on from generation to generation. The reality is quite different. Here's the appeal....

Put in prisons for seeking protection in the U.S.‏ :
Right now, thousands of men and women are being held in prisons without basic legal safeguards – jailed while they are seeking asylum in the United States.

The new leadership of the Department of Homeland Security has an opportunity to make things right – Urge them to improve the treatment of asylum seekers today!

Over 48,000 men and women since 2003.

They arrived in America and were greeted with handcuffs, given prison uniforms, sent to prison facilities and detained there for months – sometimes even years - often without any judge reviewing the need for their detention.

Each year the United States detains thousands of asylum seekers who have requested refuge from political, religious or other persecution abroad, jailing them in prisons and prison-like facilities – and in the last years it has gotten much worse. Since 2005, the Department of Homeland Security has increased immigration detention beds by 78%.

That's why I'm writing you now. Just last week, Human Rights First released a report – U.S. Detention of Asylum Seekers: Seeking Protection, Finding Prison – that exposes the human and financial costs of detaining asylum seekers. In response to this report, we've received assurances that the new leadership at the Department of Homeland Security will review these practices, but we need your help to ensure that they make reforms that are real and lasting.

Each year Human Rights First helps hundreds of asylum seekers by providing pro bono legal representation and other assistance. The stories we hear are heartbreaking: men and women who have fled political, religious and other persecution in places like Burma, Colombia, Guinea, Haiti and Tibet are brought in handcuffs to jails, made to wear prison uniforms, guarded by officers in prison attire and only allowed to visit with family and friends through glass barriers. Some detention facilities even neglect to use interpreters to communicate with detainees during medical exams, in some cases leading to dangerous misdiagnoses.

This widespread detention of asylum seekers is not only contrary to our nation's founding principles – it costs significantly more than other safe and successful alternatives to detention.
It is time for this country to stop treating asylum seekers like prisoners, but we need your help to make it happen: please, write the Department of Homeland Security today.
Eleanor Acer
Human Rights First
Please go to THIS LINK to sign the following petition to the (shudder) US Department of Homeland Security.
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
I am writing to you at the Department of Homeland Security because I am concerned about the way the United States treats asylum seekers. Each year the United States detains thousands of asylum seekers, in prisons or prison-like facilities, and many are not even given the chance to have an immigration court review the need for their continued detention.
A new report released by Human Rights First - U.S. Detention of Asylum Seekers: Seeking Protection, Finding Prison - exposes the human and financial costs of that detention. Human Rights First calculated that U.S. immigration authorities have spent over $300 million to detain asylum seekers since 2003.
You have offered assurances that under your leadership DHS will review its detention practices. Let's take this opportunity to make things right. Namely, by:
* Providing all asylum seekers with review of their detention by an immigration judge, a safeguard afforded other immigration detainees. DHS should work with the Department of Justice to revise regulations to provide arriving asylum seekers with this basic due process protection.
* Stopping detention of asylum seekers in jails and jail-like detention facilities. Instead, asylum seekers should be released on parole, bond, or to a community-based supervised release program. When they are detained, asylum seekers should be allowed to wear their own clothing, have contact visits with family and friends, and have freedom of movement within the facility. They should not be handcuffed and shackled.
I believe that this country should not continue to jail asylum seekers who meet fair release criteria and present no risk to the community. I urge you to ensure that your Department implements significant and lasting reforms.
Thank you for your actions in support of human rights and refugee rights.

No comments: