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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Considers Limiting Bond Hearings For Certain Asylum-Seekers

A caravan of asylum seekers and their supporters rally at the U.S.-Mexico bor...

Photo by Jean Guerrero

Above: A caravan of asylum seekers and their supporters rally at the U.S.-Mexico border fence, April 29, 2018.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to review a case that allows asylum-seekers who enter the U.S. without inspection to have a bond hearing with an immigration judge.

If Sessions overrules this case, which he stayed on Tuesday, most asylum-seekers could end up waiting in detention centers indefinitely while their asylum claims are processed.

The Department of Justice declined a request for comment from KPBS.

As things stand, asylum-seekers who cross the border illegally don’t always have to remain in detention. Based on the case "Matter of X-K-," they can request a release on bond if they pass a “credible fear” interview. This applies to anyone apprehended by Border Patrol within 100 miles of the border within 14 days of arrival.

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But Sessions has referred "Matter of X-K-" to himself, just like he has with other Board of Immigration Appeals cases, such as one where he revoked the right to asylum based on gang and domestic violence. He asked for briefs from both parties that "shall not exceed 15,000 words and shall be filed on or before October 9."

He said requests for extensions were "disfavored."

Sessions' decisions are not the "be all, end all," because they can be challenged in federal circuit courts, said immigration attorney Ginger Jacobs. But she said his decisions have been making it a lot harder for people to win their asylum cases.

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“We’ve seen him do this now with about a half a dozen cases — he’s starting to pick up speed in going through these cases and referring them to himself so he can basically assert his interpretation of the law," Jacobs said.

The Board of Immigration Appeals exists within the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Asylum-seekers who present themselves at ports of entry instead of crossing the border illegally already do not have a right to a bond hearing. They can be released from detention centers on parole or bond at the discretion of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the agency is decreasingly exercising that discretion under the Trump administration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a stay on a case that gives asylum-seekers who cross the border illegally a right to a bond hearing so that he can review it.

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