Living up to America’s Values: Reforming the U.S. Detention System for Asylum Seekers

Eleanor Acer


The U.S. detention system for asylum seekers is fundamentally flawed. These flaws reflect an underlying lack of fairness that is inconsistent with international law and with U.S. traditions of fairness. For instance, the initial determination to detain an asylum seeker is not the result of an individualized determination, but is instead mandatory. Subsequent parole decisions are entrusted to the INS, which is the detaining authority, rather than to an independent authority. In short, the system lacks the kinds of safeguards necessary to promote due process and to guard against unfair and arbitrary detention. Reform is possible. The detention system for asylum seekers can be improved so that it is consistent with the values of fairness that the United States strives to meet.

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