Attorney General William Barr Gave ICE More Power To Detain Migrants

The new ruling could have far-reaching effects on asylum seekers south of the border.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The new ruling could have far-reaching effects on asylum seekers south of the border.

Attorney General William Barr just weighed in on an immigration case and revoked the right of asylum seekers entering the United States illegally to ask a judge to be released on bond. Per NBC News, the decision could affect thousands of asylum seekers and give the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) more power to detain them.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration think tank, revealed her thoughts on the decision.

“This ruling gives [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] the legal authority to detain all of these people indefinitely.”

However, she notes that this is only true if the ICE has the capacity, and that “the actual effect of this ruling will be severely limited by ICE’s capacity.”

Pacific Standard reports that funding for ICE was increased in May of 2018 to accommodate an average daily population of 40,520 detainees, which is the highest in the agency’s history. But the ICE still detained much more than this — over 50,000 per day.

According to Vox, Barr’s ruling is set to go into effect in 90 days to give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) time to “conduct the necessary operational planning for additional detention and parole decisions.” If it’s allowed to do so, asylum seekers looking to be released on bond before their case is heard would require the approval of ICE.

U.S. law allows the attorney general to overturn the decisions of immigration judges and establish new precedents. But Michael Tan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claims that the organization is going to sue to block the ruling.

Loading...

“The attorney general’s decision is the latest attempt by this administration to punish asylum seekers for seeking refuge in the United States by locking them up in immigration prisons. But the Constitution does not allow the government to incarcerate asylum seekers without basic due process. We’ll see the administration in court.”

Per NBC News, Barr’s decision reversed an immigration judge’s previous decision to allow immigrants to be released on bond while waiting for their case to be heard. The same judge said that the Board of Immigration Appeals, which reviews immigration court decisions, was wrong in their ruling that only immigrants entering the U.S. through legal ports of entry should be detained and not be allowed to be released on bond.

Notably, Barr’s decision will not affect families with children under the age of 18, as minors are not allowed to be held longer than 20 days.