In February Cheik Diop, a Senegalese asylum seeker, walked out of an immigration detention facility in Pennsylvania. His release came nearly three years after he was first detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in early 2008. Last week, a federal appeals court held that detaining Diop for 1,072-days while he fought to stay in the United States violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. This important ruling gives hope to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are detained every year.
This week, sexual assault charges against former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, were dropped due to concerns about the credibility of his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. The inconsistency of Diallo’s narrative, as well as lies contained in her asylum application, led the prosecution to conclude that its case was in jeopardy. Due to the attack on her credibility, the truth regarding what happened in that Manhattan hotel room will never be known. What does this mean for other immigrants who fall victim to crime in the US?
Yesterday’s announcement from the Obama administration that “prosecutorial discretion” should be used to allow undocumented students to stay in the US, and that enforcement efforts should instead focus on deportation of criminals, is little more than a public relations smokescreen. Ever since the Administration confirmed that states may no longer opt out of Secure Communities, advocates have come down hard on President Obama for failing to live up to promises made to immigrant communities in the US.
Although the explicit goal of Secure Communities is to improve public safety by increasing deportations of undocumented criminals, in practice the program catches many non-criminals in its net and can actually decrease public safety by eroding trust between immigrants and local police. Mistrust between police and immigrant communities can lead to underreporting of crimes, leaving these communities vulnerable to violence and impairing officers’ ability to investigate and solve crimes.
A June 16 decision filed by the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (comprised of DE, NJ, and PA) offered a ray of hope to asylum seekers facing the daunting and ambiguous “national security bar.” The decision prevented the deportation of two Uzbek men and likely saved their lives. On a larger scale, the decision is a step forward for all those seeking asylum from torture who would otherwise be barred because of tenuous national security concerns.