Another setback for the Trump Administration's 'zero tolerance' policy toward illegal immigration, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
A federal judge late Monday issued an order blocking four Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices, including the one in El Paso, from continuing with a policy of automatically detaining people who enter the U.S. and claim asylum.
"This is one of our continued efforts to fight back against policIes that are targeting the most vulnerable," Edgar Saldivar with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which is one of the intervenors in the case, told News Radio 1200 WOAI. "These are asylum seekers coming to our shores for safety, sometimes with their families."
The lawsuit claims that standard government policy is to release people who are seeking asylum, as soon as their asylum claims have been found to have merit, on what is called 'humanitarian release,' until their asylum hearing can be scheduled. But under the Trump Administration, almost no asylum seekers have been released, and some have been held since January of 2017 without charge or even a criminal allegation.
"I have not breathed fresh air or felt the sun on my fact, and I never know if it is hot or cold outside, if the sun is out, or of the seasons are changing," said Ansly Damus, who is seeking asylum from political persecution in Haiti.
Damus is an ethics teacher, who fled his homeland after he spoke out against a government official, and faced political persecution for his comments. He is one of the named plaintiffs in the case.
The Administration points out that immigrant smugglers will now instruct people entering the U.S. illegally, regardless of their status or their nation of origin, to seek out Border Patrol officers immediately and make an asylum claim, in an attempt to 'game the system.' The smugglers have told the illegal immigrants about the 'humanitarian release' program, and say they can be released, and vanish into the U.S.
"Essentially, we think this ruling changes the normal process that the Trump administration has been using since it came into office," Saldivar said.