The Release of Families Seeking Asylum across the U.S. Southwest Border

Jenny Aldrich, Savitri Arvey, and Gustavo López
Date of Publication: 
October, 2019
Source Organization: 

In 2018, there was a marked spike in Central American families and unaccompanied minors who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, many who were requesting asylum. Citing an alleged lack of detention space and processing capacity due to restrictions on family detention, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended a long-term practice known as “safe release” in October 2018, first in Arizona and then across all southwest border states. Under the safe release practice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials assisted families and individuals released from temporary detention with the coordination of their travel plans to meet up with sponsors while they waited for their asylum court hearing. After the change in practice, DHS began releasing people directly to bus stations, shelters, and in some cases streets of cities across the southwest border in a practice that has been referred to as “quick release.” This report provides a snapshot of the shift from safe to quick release along the southern border from October 2018 to June 2019, compiling fieldwork, in-person and phone interviews with representatives from civil society and religious organizations, lawyers, and journalists on both sides of the border. It documents the policy change as well as the state and local responses.

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Aldrich, J., Arvey, S., & López, G. (2019). The release of families seeking asylum across the U.S. southwest border. Retrieved from