On Heels of Barr Immigration Decision, Jayapal, Adam Smith, and Booker Re-Introduce Bill to Counter Attorney General’s Efforts

Bill would directly combat Barr’s decision to indefinitely detain immigrants


WASHINGTON, D.C.—On the heels of Attorney General William Barr’s decision earlier this month to withhold bail from asylum seekers, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced their Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act today. 

The bill would directly combat Attorney General Barr’s efforts to indefinitely detain immigrants by, 1) mandating that all detained immigrants have access to a bond hearing before an immigration judge, and 2) shifting the burden to the government to prove that asylum seekers and other immigrants should be detained because they pose a risk to the community or a flight risk.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act also targets the inhumane conditions of detention centers that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to house tens of thousands of immigrants. It would end the use of private prisons and county jails to detain immigrants, set humane standards for detention facilities, increase oversight of these facilities to eliminate abuse and better protect the civil rights of immigrant detainees.

“The high moral cost of our inhumane immigration detention system is reprehensible. The Trump administration’s decision to deny bond hearings for people seeking asylum is just another cruel step in their attacks against asylum seekers and families that will pave the way to more family separation and untenable choices,” Rep. Jayapal said. “Our Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act restores our values as a country by eliminating mandatory detention, protecting vulnerable populations including primary caregivers and asylum-seekers, eliminating the for-profit prison system and ensuring that immigrants are treated with dignity and basic human rights.”

“Our immigration system is broken and the way Donald Trump is choosing to enforce existing immigration laws is dead wrong,” Rep. Smith said. “Our legislation would put an end to the administration’s abuses of the immigration detention system and allow individuals and families to live outside of detention while they await their immigration proceedings. It would also end the abhorrent for-profit detention system that has allowed corporations to profit while immigrants are needlessly kept in detention. There is absolutely no reason for asylum seeking families to languish in detention facilities while they await the outcome of their cases. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act recognizes the value of immigrants to our community and brings humanity to a failed immigration system.”

“The Trump Administration has adopted the motto of cruelty for cruelty’s sake and continues to close America’s doors to asylum seekers in their time of need,” Senator Booker said. “The fact that Barr wants to strip asylum seekers of their right to due process violates our Constitution and our country’s values. Our bill will hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and ensures vulnerable immigrants are treated with the dignity and respect that should be expected in this country.”

Specifically, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would:


  • Ensure all immigrants receive individualized and fair bond hearings by ending the use of mandatory detention of certain immigrants and requiring DHS to establish probable cause of removability within 48 hours of detention.
  • Prevent the detention of a primary caregiver (and other vulnerable populations) unless the government can show it is unreasonable or not practicable to place the caregiver in community-based supervision enabling more families to stay together
  • End the use of private prisons and county jails for immigration detention over a three-year phase-out period
  • Improve detention standards for detention facilities housing immigrants by requiring DHS to match the civil detention standards set forth by the American Bar Association’s Civil Immigration Detention Standards
  • Require the DHS Office of Inspector General to conduct unannounced inspections of all immigration detention facilities and stiffen penalties for facilities found to be in violation of DHS’ improved civil detention standards
  • Require DHS to investigate all deaths of immigrants in its custody and issue a public report within 60 days