Group Demands Investigation Into El Paso Immigrant Detention Center

By Mónica Ortiz Uribe
December 12, 2013

A group of immigrant activists is calling for an investigation into the detention of asylum seekers at an El Paso detention facility. They allege the detainees are being wrongfully held.

The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group known to take extreme measures to spotlight immigration issues, is claiming that at least 90 asylum seekers detained in El Paso qualify for release under humanitarian parole.

"The detainees have been calling us on a hotline we set up and have been giving us information on their cases," NIYA spokesman Mohammad Abdollahi said.

Under new rules set up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton in 2011, asylum seekers who meet certain requirements can be released while their case is pending. In order to qualify the authorities must determine the applicant is not a threat to national security, verify his or her nationality and determine he or she is not a flight risk.

But even those who qualify aren't always released, according to Katie Hudak, executive director of a legal advocacy center for immigrants in El Paso.

"In my personal experience, we have seen people who have been in immigration detention and who in our opinion qualify for humanitarian parole for many months and have not been given the humanitarian parole," Hudak said.

In response to NIYA's claims ICE issued a statement saying asylum cases are complex and there is no way for an outside group to properly assess whether a detainee is eligible for release.