U.S. Says Asylum-Seekers Must Be Detained Despite Criticism That Detention Centers Are Overtaxed

U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced recently that all asylum-seekers must be detained or deported. Immigrant advocates say this will put more pressure on detention centers that are already failing to meet the needs of detainees.

Asylum seekers used to qualify for bond release if they passed a credible fear test. Now, they will have to await resolution of their case from behind bars.

Andrew Arthur, former immigration judge and a fellow with the conservative-leaning Center for Immigration Studies, said Barr’s decision is not new, but is based on the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“It's not a good idea or a bad idea,” said Arthur. “It's the law. And it's appropriate for the Attorney General to apply the law as Congress has written it.”

But Mateo Lozano with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition sees a problem. He said immigration detention centers, like the Aurora Detention Center in Colorado, are already operating in substandard conditions.

“The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is getting lots of complaints of outbreaks of certain viruses happening in the jails,” said Lozano, “of people suffering from lack of nutrition, of some people not getting the adequate medical care.”

According to the immigrant advocacy group National Immigration Forum, it can cost as much as $200 a day to detain someone in an immigration detention facility.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.