FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2023
Contact: [email protected]
MIAMI — Today, Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) and Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice released a groundbreaking report on the Family Expedited Removal Management (FERM) program, a new fast-tracked process introduced by the Biden administration in May 2023 for families who enter the United States seeking asylum. Drawing on AI Justice’s experience and observations over an 11-week period providing legal services to families enrolled in FERM, the report analyzes the early implementation of this program, highlights ongoing challenges faced by families and legal service providers, and provides numerous recommendations on how to make the process more rights-based and family-centered.
“While many aspects of the FERM process are deeply problematic, including its basis in the use of expedited removal and overly restrictive and harmful GPS surveillance mechanisms, we recognize the positive equities that release of families into their awaiting communities could have in relation to more meaningful access to counsel,” said Cindy Woods, National Policy Counsel at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “However, fairness must take precedence over fast processing, and it is critical that families are provided the opportunity to address their basic needs before being forced to participate in a life-or-death interview with an Asylum Officer. This report offers recommendations on how the Administration can better ensure that families are able to utilize the benefits associated with their release into the communities awaiting them to more fully participate in their credible fear interviews and access counsel in the expedited removal process.”
Kathleen Maloney, a consultant with Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice, said, “the Feerick Center’s long standing work with families placed in expedited removal has shown that the accelerated process presents significant due process and access-to-counsel deficiencies. The FERM Process is no different. Women and children are among the most vulnerable asylum seekers and, like others seeking humanitarian protection, they have been thrust into this process without a basic understanding of the stakes or the importance of the outcome. The significant shortcomings outlined in this policy brief should and can be rectified.”
Since its inception in May 2023, the FERM process has been rapidly implemented in thirty-three cities across the United States, and is expected to expand to at least forty cities nationwide. Recognizing the unique challenges families face when participating in accelerated asylum procedures, AI Justice—with indispensable support from the Feerick Center—launched the Familias Seguras (Safe Families) project, aimed at providing legal orientation and representation to families subject to FERM.
Over the course of eleven weeks, AI Justice spoke with approximately 164 families across the nation subject to the FERM process. While this represents just a fraction of the total number of families who have or are going through this process, the experiences of the Familias Seguras staff in orienting and representing FERM families sheds light on the numerous ways in which the policy fails to consider the unique vulnerabilities and specific needs of families and children and how the truncated timeline around which the process is built unduly restricts meaningfully access to counsel. This report highlights the need for a more family-centered approach.
Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) is an award-winning non-profit law firm that fights for justice for immigrants through a combination of direct representation, impact litigation, advocacy and outreach. For more information, visit aijustice.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice works on a variety of social change efforts alongside regional and national partners, law students, and alumni. For more information, visit here.