Franken Challenges Napolitano on Imprisonment of Asylum Seekers

Created: December 09, 2009 12:07 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning why it is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is imprisoning people coming to the United States seeking asylum from persecution abroad.

“A 2005 congressionally authorized bipartisan commission found that it wasn’t appropriate to detain asylum seekers in prisons,” said Franken. “That was four years ago. Now they’re still being detained in prison, put in jumpsuits and shackles. They’re even put in solitary confinement,” he said. “They aren’t criminals.”

Napolitano responded that part of the agency’s detention reform process, still being implemented, is “to really do a risk analysis for every individual who comes into our system.”

Franken persisted. “There’s a credible fear interview. Very often they continue to be detained even after it’s been determined that they have a credible fear if they go back.”

Napolitano did not deny the problem. “We’re working with officers to increase the speed by which they are paroled into the country if there has been a determination of credible fear.”

According to a recent report on the detention of asylum seekers by Human Rights First, the U.S. detention system for asylum seekers “is inconsistent with international refugee protection and human rights standards.”