AG Barr's Decision Revokes Bond for Asylum Seekers, Exacerbating Insecurities and Trauma

On Tuesday April 16th, U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued Matter of M-S-, a precedential decision impacting the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration Courts.  The decision, which is scheduled to go into effect in 90 days, revokes the right of detained asylum seekers who have passed a credible fear interview to request release from detention on bond.  This means that the detained asylum seeker will have to remain in detention while they pursue asylum status through the immigration court. Where before immigration court judges could release detained asylum seekers who had passed a credible fear interview with a judicial order, now only the U.S. Department of Homeland Security enforcement branch can authorize release on parole.

TASSC exists to provide services to survivors of torture arriving from anywhere in the world.  Due to our location and history, most of the individuals we serve have not made overland crossings of the U.S. border, lawfully or unlawfully. However, Attorney General Barr’s decision in Matter of M-S- reverberates throughout the nation and the asylum apparatus as a whole. The anti-immigrant sentiment espoused by our current United States leadership and infused into its legal and policy decision making results in significant emotional responses in many of our asylum-seeking survivors. Feelings of isolation and frustration caused by hostility to asylum-seekers exacerbate the traumatic impact of torture and causes re-traumatization. Re-traumatization is damaging to individuals, their communities, and by extension the society within which they reside because these feelings manifest not just inwardly but outwardly. 

TASSC is also disquieted by increasing delays in the asylum interviewing process.  The asylum office backlog has become so monumental and problematic that applications are effectively at a standstill.  For many asylum seekers this is disastrous. They are unable to move forward with their lives, trapped in limbo waiting years and years on end for an interview. 

Successive derogatory actions by U.S. leadership serve to show that AG Barr’s Matter of M-S- decision is simply one more move to cut away U.S. protections for vulnerable peoples that our country should be embracing.  “Where the US once championed humanitarian principles and causes,” TASSC Legal Services Program Manager Cindy Vanderpool Garcia, Esq. stated, “we are now shirking our responsibility to provide refuge to those who need it most. Doing so undermines our global credibility and will ultimately damage our populace, global respect and intercountry relations. This is an ugly stain on our legacy. For asylums seekers who’ve already suffered so much, this open hostility causes fear, anger and resentment towards the system and towards our country which in turn results in group disillusionment. This is a recipe for national decay and insecurity.”

TASSC believes that Barr’s decision should be challenged and rejected and encourages Congress to respond with policy that builds on the foundations of the asylum process and restores its meaning and value. We remain deeply committed to serving our survivors so that they may rebuild their lives here in the United States. TASSC will continue to value our survivors as dynamic, worthy, and strong individuals who will enhance our workforce and society.

TASSC International