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February 14, 2005

Professor testifies before Congress on treatment of asylum-seekers

By Jennifer McNulty

Psychology professor Craig Haney made a whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C., last week to testify before Congress about a study he coauthored for the United States Commission of Religious Freedom on the detention conditions under which asylum seekers are kept in the United States.

Photo: Craig Haney

Craig Haney.
Photo: UCSC Photo Services

The report concluded that thousands of people who come to the United States seeking refuge from persecution are treated poorly. Many are held indefinitely in detention centers and forced to share quarters with inmates facing criminal prosecution. Asylum seekers also receive disparate treatment depending on their country of origin and where they arrive in the United States, according to the report.

The findings received widespread media attention, including reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Associated Press distributed a story widely, and National Public Radio broadcast a report about the bipartisan commission’s findings.

Haney, who briefed the Senate Judiciary Committee and members of the House of Representatives, participated in a briefing at the National Press Club and fielded numerous media queries. An expert on the psychological effects of incarceration, Haney said he was “taken aback by the severity of conditions,” according to the New York Times report.

Haney coauthored the section of the study on detention. The report’s authors made numerous recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the asylum system, including a proposal to create an office to address asylum-related issues.

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