CGRS decries the cruel “zero tolerance” policy now being enforced at our southern border, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a speech on Monday. Sessions’ speech followed a statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security last Friday declaring that the agency would no longer exempt classes or groups of individuals at the border – including asylum seekers and parents with children – from criminal prosecution for “illegal entry.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Human Rights First, and Covington & Burling LLP filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Trump administration’s arbitrary detention of asylum seekers fleeing persecution, torture, or death in their countries of origin. All the plaintiffs have passed credible fear screenings — meaning a U.S. asylum officer has determined their fear of persecution is credible, and that they have a significant possibility of receiving full asylum. Government policy stipulates that asylum seekers be granted humanitarian parole as they await their immigration proceedings, provided they meet a series of stringent requirements. Instead, the Trump administration is categorically jailing them indefinitely, in violation of the Constitution, U.S. immigration laws, and the Department of Homeland Security’s own written policy.

The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) applauds Senator Mazie Hirono and her co-sponsors, including Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris of California, for reintroducing the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act. This important bill would ensure access to government appointed counsel for unaccompanied children in immigration court proceedings.