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Migrant Rights and Justice

Our reports on women, children and families in immigration detention have led to changes in immigration policy and practice in the U.S. Read our landmark studies that have resulted in these changes.

Family Detention - Background Document

Since 2012 and increasing in the spring of 2014, thousands of migrant families and children have fled violence and organized crime in Central America by fleeing to the U.S. The vast majority of families arriving at the border are made up of women with very young children. The U.S. government has responded by instituting a dangerous and inhumane policy of family detention and a summary deportation process known as expedited removal. This document outlines the history of family detention in the United States, why detention is inappropriate for this population, key facts about families seeking protection, as well as solutions and alternatives to detention. 

Published: October 30, 2014
Modified: October 30, 2014

Domestic Violence and Gender-Based Asylum Claims after the Board of Immigration Appeals Decision in Matter of A-R-C-G-

New Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision recognizes domestic violence as the basis for asylum: Recently, the BIA issued an important decision that recognizes that women who are victims of domestic violence may be deemed a “member of a particular social group” which could be the basis of a successful asylum claim. The case, Matter of A-R-C-G-, could potentially help some of the Central American women and children who are fleeing domestic violence and arriving at the Southwest border.

Published: October 17, 2014
Modified: October 17, 2014

Audio Recording of Press Call: Refugee, Legal and Policy Experts React to Obama Administration’s Supplemental Funding Request for Central American Children Seeking Protection

Washington, DC – Refugee, policy and legal experts held a press call today to review the Obama Administration’s emergency supplemental request to respond to the increase in children fleeing Central America and seeking protection in the United States (as well as other countries in the region).

Published: July 09, 2014
Modified: August 11, 2014

Make A Plan: Migrant Parents’ Guide to Preventing Family Separation

Immigration enforcement is on the rise. Immigrant parents can and should take steps to prepare for the possibility of separation from their children. This will increase the likelihood that they can reunify with their children if they are detained or deported.

Please note that this information is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is always advisable to seek the assistance of an attorney. If you try to access government services (including applying for a passport, talking with your children’s school or going before a court) you could risk arrest if your state has passed anti-immigrant legislation. Please make decisions carefully and, if possible, ask someone with legal status to help you.


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Immigrant parents can and should take steps to prepare for the possibility of separation from their children. This will increase the likelihood that they can reunify with their children if they are detained or deported.

Make A Plan: Migrant Parents’ Guide to Preventing Family Separation

Descargue la versión en español

Los padres inmigrantes pueden y deben tomar pasos para prepararse para la posibilidad de separación de sus hijos. Esto aumentará la probabilidad de que puedan reunirse con sus hijos si son detenidos o expulsados.

Prepare un plan: Guía para padres inmigrantes para prevenir la separación familiar

Published: June 23, 2014
Modified: August 20, 2014

Myth and Fact on Central American Migration Surge

Published: June 18, 2014
Modified: June 30, 2014

Recommendations to DHS to Improve Complaint Processing

As part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Congress ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure the adequate protection of civil rights and civil liberties.i However, consistent, documented – yet avoidable - deficiencies within the DHS complaint systems have inhibited the Department’s ability to identify internal civil rights concerns and take appropriate action. In this cross-organizational document, we identify specific problems and concrete recommendations to improve the handling of complaints and ensure that migrants' human rights are respected.
Published: May 06, 2014

Safer Deportations Practices: Recommendations

Published: March 21, 2014
Modified: March 21, 2014

WRC's analysis of ICE's Parental Interests Directive

Emily Butera of WRC's Migrant Rights and Justice Program analyzes ICE's Parental Interests Directive.

Published: August 27, 2013
Modified: August 27, 2013

Guide for Detained and Removed Parents with Child Custody Concerns

This easy-to-use guide provides parents with basic steps they can take to protect their parental rights; information on family court proceedings, parent-child visitation and coordinating care of children; and helpful ICE resources for detainees. ICE has made this guide available in the law libraries of all immigration detention facilities housing adults for more than 72 hours.


Descargue la versión en español

Guía para Padres Detenidos y Removidos en Relación a Cuestiones de Custodia de Menores

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Guide for Detained and Removed Parents with Child Custody Concerns

Published: August 22, 2013
Modified: August 20, 2014

Letter to the President on Immigration Reform Dec. 2012

Published: February 14, 2013
Modified: February 14, 2013

The Realities of Immigration Enforcement

The amount of money the federal government spends on immigration enforcement has skyrocketed in recent years. It now spends more on immigration enforcement than on all major federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined. Read more...

Published: February 14, 2013
Modified: February 14, 2013

2012 Daniel Levy Award: Michelle Brané's Acceptance Speech

Remarks made by Michelle Brané, the Director of the WRC's Migrant Rights & Justice program, on Receiving the Eleventh Annual Daniel Levy Memorial Award.


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Remarks on Receiving the Eleventh Annual Daniel Levy Memorial Award

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2012 Daniel Levy Award: Michelle Brané's Acceptance Speech

Published: August 01, 2012
Modified: August 20, 2014

Women Migrants Who Brave Border-Crossings

Published: April 19, 2012
Modified: April 19, 2012

Child Migrants Who Brave Border-Crossings Alone: Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC’s) and Repatriat

While conditions for children in DCS custody are more appropriate for children, DCS still fails to implement fully a “best interest of the child” approach. Facilities range from foster care programs to group homes, shelters and institutional juvenile detention centers. Confinement facilities are locked and surrounded by barbed wire. Children remain in DCS custody for an average of 55 days until a parent or guardian can be located. If there is no guardian available to release the child to, the child remains in DCS custody for the duration of his/her immigration case. While ORR/DCS has taken positive steps in providing child welfare-centered care, it continues to over-rely on confinement facilities—ranging from lock-up shelters to secure juvenile justice facilities.

Published: April 19, 2012
Modified: October 12, 2012