UUPP 026: UUSC – Stand Up For Refugee Women Detained in the U.S.

Rachel Fore Freed - UUSC

Rachel Gore Freed is Senior Program Leader for Rights at Risk with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).

She is giving you a personal account of what is happening at the 3 Detention Centers in Texas at Dilley and Karnes;  and Berks, Pennsylvania. Rachel will share what you can do to help.


It’s not a crime to seek asylum in the United States. Yet, at least 1,500 refugee women, many of whom are mothers, are currently detained in jail-like conditions in Texas and Pennsylvania. Many of these women have passed reasonable fear interviews and have been denied parole.

Although bonds are afforded to mothers whose fears of returning to their home countries are found to be “credible” by an asylum officer, neither ICE nor the immigration judges will grant bonds to families passing the “reasonable” fear process (an even higher standard of proof for people not eligible for credible fear interviews). The withholding of bond along with the ICE policy of denying parole to all positive reasonable fear applicants have resulted in excessively long detention of these families. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, at least 100 such families are currently being held in family detention facilities located in Karnes and Dilley, Texas, as well as Berks, Penn. On average, these children and their mothers are detained for nine months to one year, with several having already been detained for more than a year. Continuing to detain these women deeply conflicts with our U.S. values, including due process.

One of these refugee women is 19 years old and the mother of a four-year-old. She and her child fled Honduras and are now being held inside Karnes County Residential Center. Under the stress of living in detention, she attempted suicide. She is not alone. At the Berks County facility, another young mother — distraught over being detained for 11 months and counting —attempted to end her life. This spring nearly 80 other women detained at the Karnes facility participated in a hunger strike in hopes of bringing attention to their plight.

Human rights lawyers and advocates have reported that conditions inside these centers are similar to jail; they expose refugees to trauma, malnutrition, and depression. Standing up for these women and their families is a moral imperative.

UUSC video about who they are:


Rachel Gore Freed is a human rights lawyer with a wealth of domestic and international experience. As the Rights at Risk senior program leader, Freed spearheads, plans, and implements UUSC’s work responding to humanitarian crises and advancing the rights of people who are most overlooked or discriminated against in the midst of crises such as forced migration, large-scale conflicts, genocide, and natural disasters.

Prior to joining UUSC, Freed litigated several environmental justice suits with the National Environmental Law Center. A passionate civil rights advocate, she previously represented low-income immigrants and detained asylum seekers pursuing relief from unjust deportation in New York City. She has also worked with the List Project on Iraqi refugee policy and served as cochair of the American Bar Association International Refugee Committee.

Freed began her legal career clerking with the Charles Taylor prosecution team at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where she focused on witness protection. In addition, she has worked with the Irish Center for Human Rights, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Society for International Law. Freed holds a bachelor’s degree with a focus in international development from the George Washington Eliot School of International Affairs and a doctor of law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School.

Favorite Quote:

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” — Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living
(Arundhati Roy is a famous Indian writer and activist)


Rachel Gore Freed| Senior Program Leader, Rights at Risk
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
689 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139-3302
tel: 617-301-4330 | fax: 617-492-9824
rfreed@uusc.org| uusc.org

Sign the Petition: uusc.org/100women

Haitian deportation from the Dominican Republic: more info and what you can do to help -Write Secretary Kerry and demand his influence on the DR!

Final Credits: music thanks to:

“Carefree”, “Open Those Bright Eyes”, “Sweeter Vermouth”
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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