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Senseless Immigration Policy Separates Mother and Child

On March 12, Sivajini Kadambharatnam arrived at JFK International Airport and requested the protection of political asylum from U.S. Immigration Officials. A refugee from Sri Lanka, Ms. Kadambharatnam traveled to this country with her twelve year old son, and arrived in the United States without friends, family or support. Following new policies that have been in place for a year, immigration officials placed Ms. Kadambharatnam in immigration detention while a determination was made if her fear of persecution in Sri Lanka was "credible". This process took three weeks, and during this time Ms. Kadambharatnam was held in an immigration detention facility, identical in every respect to a prison. Release from such facilities is at the discretion of the District Director, a local INS official.

In Ms. Kadambharatnams case, there was an additional cruel twist to her detention. Her twelve year old son, Rajakumar, was locked by himself into a hotel room near the airport. Although some telephone contact was reluctantly authorized by the District Director between mother and son, Ms. Kadambharatnam became frantic with worry as the weeks passed.

(taken from Detention Watch Network News, April 1998)


On May 4, 1998, Karantha S., a Sri Lankan Tamil woman, accompanied by her two children, arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in transit to Canada. She was fleeing persecution and torture in Sri Lanka. The INS officials detained her and her children as she did not have the appropriate travel documents. An asylum officer found that Karantha S. possessed credible fear. Despite a parole request by Minnesota Advocates to the INS District Director in Bloomington for their release pending their asylum hearing, she was detained by the INS in Rice County Jail in southern Minnesota. Her children were detained at a juvenile detention facility in Chicago - more than eight hours away. Karantha was deeply distraught over her separation from her children and her inability to speak to them by telephone. After nearly three months of detention, Karantha was finally released in late July when her asylum case was granted.

The following is a sample letter that may be used to express opposition to the incarceration of bona fide asylum seekers in the United States. The Bloomington INS offices policy of detaining bona fide asylum seekers in criminal county jails and prisons shocks ones conscience. It is more tragic that United States immigration laws have allowed the local INS District to detain innocent children, apart from their parents, who have fled torture and persecution.

Please contact the Bloomington INS office to express your concerns of the incarceration of bona fide asylum seekers in the United States.

Mr. Curtis J. Aljets
INS District Director
2901 Metro Drive, Suite 100
Bloomington, MN 55424

Dear Mr. Aljets,

I am writing to express my concern with the imprisonment of bona fide asylum seekers in Minnesota. We believe your Districts policy of placing asylum seekers in criminal county jails and prisons despite the fact that they have a credible fear contradicts the parole policy for bona fide asylum seekers in the United States.

The parole policy is clear for individuals who are seeking asylum in the United States:

  • Article 31 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees states that refugees who are fleeing persecution should not be punished on account of their illegal entry or presence. It also states that states shall not restrict the movements of asylum seekers more than necessary.
  • The INS has stated that the credible fear interview process includes the assessment of parole eligibility for individuals who have been determined to have a credible fear.
  • The INS has stated that "parole is a viable option and should be considered for aliens who meet the credible fear standard, can establish identity and community ties, and are not subject to any possible bars to asylum involving violence or misconduct."

We understand that you have the sole discretion to grant parole requests in your district. Thus we urge you to adhere to the INSs parole policy for bona fide asylum seekers. The parole of bona fide asylum seekers will spare the districts expenses of imprisoning these asylum seekers and enable parents and children to remain together after fleeing from persecution and torture. Moreover, it will allow victims of torture to seek counseling and the needed medical treatment.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

For more information, contact

Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
310 Fourth Avenue South SuiteĀ 1000
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1012.
Tel: 612-341-3302, Fax: 612-341-2971

Email: [email protected]