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Tahirih Justice Center applauds the decision from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to free hundreds of refugee mothers and children from remote detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, where they have languished for months without access to critical services.

“ICE’s announcement is a hopeful sign that the Obama Administration intends to do more to uphold its moral and legal obligation to refugee women and children. But there is more to be done to ensure that this is a meaningful victory for those persecuted individuals who come to this country seeking protection,” Tahirih Director of Policy and Programs Archi Pyati said on Tuesday in a statement to the media.

ICE announced on July 16 it will begin to free many detained survivors of violence — such as human trafficking, domestic abuse, and rape — after a year of intense pressure from human rights advocates.

“Going forward, ICE will generally not detain mothers with children, absent a threat to public safety or national security, if they have received a positive finding for credible or reasonable fear,” ICE spokesperson Richard Rocha said.

Some women and children from Central America were released in late May at bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix after they were flown to Arizona from south Texas. Photo by Michael Chow/The Republic

Some women and children from Central America were released in late May at bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix after they were flown to Arizona from south Texas. Photo by Michael Chow/The Republic.

ICE has pledged to review cases and begin freeing women and children who are eligible for asylum or other legal protection with orders to report to future immigration hearings and wear electronic monitoring devices.

Yet, ICE officials said they will continue to place families at the remote facilities, which means the number of innocent women and children detained at these privately-run, jail-like facilities could increase in the future.

As long as the process of determining which refugees are eligible for release continues to be fraught with unfairness, it is possible that many women and children could remain in detention for long periods of time or be wrongfully deported.

Tahirih’s areas of ongoing concern include:

  • Fairness of the screening interviews at the U.S.-Mexico border and inside detention facilities, including the language in which they are conducted and the standards that are applied;
  • Length of time until the interviews are conducted;
  • Fairness of any bond amounts or alternatives to detention that are employed; and
  • Conditions, treatment, and access to vital care for survivors of violence inside and outside of the facilities.

According to ICE officials, 71 women and children remain in detention at a center in Pennsylvania, and 2,101 remain in detention in Texas as of July 13, 2015.

Your support of our advocacy efforts has been vital to this welcome step toward justice. We will continue to keep you updated about issues of unjust detention, and we hope you’ll share this promising news with your friends and family through email and social media.

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