Asylum seekers in Batavia must have chance for parole while awaiting hearings, says federal judge

Nov 21, 2017

Dozens of asylum seekers from Somalia, Haiti, Cuba and elsewhere will get another opportunity to apply for release from a federal detention center in Batavia.

"If they can establish that they are not a safety or flight risk, then ICE should release them,” said Aadhithi Padmanabhan, a staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union. “But the parole process at Batavia came to a grinding halt right when Trump became President."

Padmanabhan represented more than 30 immigrants being held at the Batavia facility in a federal lawsuit heard in Rochester.

U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Wolford ruled  Friday that the detention center must redo parole applications for asylum-seekers who have been denied and must push through applications for others. She ruled the facility must provide an asylum-seeker with information on the requirements and an individualized explanation for why an application has been denied.

Padmanabhan argued that the detention facility has been arbitrarily imprisoning some of the world's most vulnerable people.

"Many of whom were not told about parole, none of whom were told about parole in languages they understood - and there's a large number of people, as you can imagine, who don't speak English in this category - and then, people who were being denied parole and they had no idea why they were being denied parole."

Aslyum applications can take months and sometimes years to process, she said.

While the lawsuit involved only the Batavia detention center, Padmanabhan said it is not believed to be the only facility denying release to asylum seekers, citing earlier reports from the advocacy organization Human Rights First.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials did not immediately comment on the ruling.