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Our recommendations for policy changes for survivors at the border

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

Silhouette of hungry refugee mother and childThe following information is a thoughtful proposal of solutions to the humanitarian crisis at the border, as outlined in the report by Casa de Esperanza’s National Latin@ Network and St. Edward’s University, titled Latina Immigrant Women and Children’s Well-Being and Access to Services After Detention.

Findings emerging from these data point to several policy implementation and practice recommendations:

Increase information-sharing and transparency around immigration and asylum procedures

• Provide comprehensive information to detained women (in their primary language) about immigration processes and procedures, their rights, preparation for the credible/reasonable fear interview when seeking asylum, ankle monitors and post-release requirements, and how to connect to social services, legal services, and community-based support. Information should be provided in multiple formats and venues, as information may be difficult to retain due to trauma and when delivered in the detention setting.

• Draw from existing models in place by the multiple organizations engaged in the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project at the Karnes and Dilley family detention centers to provide women and their children with information about the asylum process and legal assistance.

• Draw from existing models available in other fields (for example, supporting hotline resources for post-detention information, referral and legal consultation or an automated calling system alerting women about upcoming court dates).

• Increase transparency about the procedures and processes for seeking asylum, and ensure continued access to the asylum process for individuals fleeing gender-based violence.

• Increase transparency about the scope of the detained population (numbers of immigrants detained, duration of detention, and reasons for detention).

• Provide information and guidance to detained women preparing for removal (deportation) regarding negotiating safe return to their home countries. This may include giving women the opportunity to decide where in their home country they need to go, who they can be in communication with, and information about how travel will take place, in addition to safety planning upon arrival.

Expand bio-psycho-social support services for women and their children in detention

• Provide comprehensive and trauma-informed mental health services in detention settings that are culturally and linguistically appropriate.

• Provide therapeutic support in individual and group formats.

• Staff detention facilities with mental health professionals with advanced training in trauma, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking.

Increase workforce orientation and training in trauma, violence and coercion

• Ensure in-depth training and capacity-building on trauma, violence and coercion for all governmental personnel, immigration officials, attorneys, judges, law enforcement, private contractors, and nonprofit staff and volunteers working in detention and with detained and previously detained populations.

• Ensure comprehensive, linguistically appropriate, trauma-informed screening for immigration relief related to violence, exploitation, and persecution.

• Recognize and address vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress among those working with detained and previously detained survivors of trauma, violence and abuse. Expand bio-psycho-social support services for women
and their children in detention

• Consider ethical standards inherent in working with trauma survivors. As a mental health professional noted, “What does it mean to ask people about the most horrific things that they’ve ever experienced, without being able to provide any follow-up services?”

To see the five other recommendations our research team propose as solutions to the humanitarian crisis at our border, please click the link to access the entire report, Latina Immigrant Women and Children’s Well-Being and Access to Services After Detention

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