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Why are asylum seekers being detained at immigration centers?

In the United States, citizens are fortunate to enjoy many freedoms and opportunities. These include freedom from persecution with regard to religion and freedom of choice with regard to personal views and political ideologies. Sadly, millions of people around the world don't enjoy these same freedoms and spend their lives fearing persecution, violence and death.

Under U.S. immigration laws, foreign-born individuals who have suffered or fear persecution due to their religion, political views, race or nationality can seek to stay in the U.S. via the asylum process. While the asylum process is meant to help those who fear for their safety and very lives, recent strikes at several U.S. immigration detention centers indicate that, once in the U.S., many asylum seekers continue to face persecution.

Roughly 34,000 immigrants are currently being detained at U.S. immigration centers while they await asylum decisions. For these individuals, most of whom have already suffered great trauma back in their home countries, the conditions at the facilities as well as the fact that they are locked up and treated like criminals is almost too much to bear.

Recently, asylum seekers at several detention centers around the U.S., have staged protests and strikes to call attention to their plight and treatment. At an all-women's detention center in Texas, as many as 500 women from countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras are reported to be on hunger strike. The women are seeking release from the facility as well as protesting their overall treatment.

At another Texas detention center more than 50 asylum seekers went on a hunger strike that lasted roughly two seeks. The immigrants at this facility had already lost their asylum cases, but were never given copies of the official court order "which is needed to file an appeal." While the detainees eventually received copies of their orders, most missed their deadlines to appeal.

Depending on one's circumstances, the asylum process can be challenging. It's wise, therefore to hire an immigration attorney who can ensure that all necessary documents are submitted on time and that administrative procedures are followed. Additionally, an attorney will advocate on one's behalf and fight to win a positive asylum ruling.

Source: Mother Jones, "Here’s Why Hundreds of Immigrants in Detention Have Gone on Hunger Strike," Samantha Michaels, Dec. 3, 2015

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