On World Refugee Day, and Juneteenth, #WelcomeWithDignity Demands Equal Treatment of All Refugees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 20, 2022

CONTACT: press@welcomewithdignity.org

 

On World Refugee Day, and Juneteenth, #WelcomeWithDignity Demands Equal Treatment of All Refugees

 

Washington — On the occasion of World Refugee Day, a global holiday celebrating and honoring the resilience and strength of refugees worldwide, the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign honors a long legacy of welcoming refugees and people seeking asylum. This commemoration coincides with the new federal holiday marking Juneteenth, which is an important reminder that Black migrants remain disproportionately targeted with the harshest deterrent and enforcement measures of the U.S. immigration system, specifically Caribbean, African, and Afro-Latino migrants. Today, we are faced with an increasingly anti-immigrant, anti-asylum agenda systematically targeting vulnerable people fleeing danger and persecution using legally suspect and racist strategies in an effort to deconstruct and eliminate the human right to seek asylum. Black asylum seekers have been disproportionately impacted by Title 42 and Remain and Mexico, and we have seen an unending wave of expulsion flights to Haiti. 

 

“As Indigenous peoples, we are labeled invaders in our own lands, and our peoples are persecuted and killed for speaking out and defending our lands, rights and ways of life,” said Juanita Cabrera Lopez (Maya Mam), Executive Director of the International Mayan League. “Global threats to our lands and territories by neoliberal policies not only dispossess us of our lands but have detrimental environmental impacts leading to destruction and disasters and increased climate refugees. As an organization founded by Indigenous refugees fleeing war and genocide, we call on the urgent need to recognize the existence of Indigenous peoples and all our human rights, including our right to seek asylum.” 



“Families like mine deserve safety, whether they are resettled as refugees or are forced to flee and seek asylum,” said Bilal Askaryar for the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign. “If today’s asylum policies were in place when my family fled Afghanistan in 1990, I don’t know where I’d be today. That is why today, and every day, I will continue the fight to uphold our commitments to protect people seeking safety.” 

 

In the past few months, our country has demonstrated that it is more than capable of welcoming refugees, as shown through the enormous ongoing support shown to Ukrainian refugees. This is an amazing example that our country does have the resources to care for people seeking refuge. The same amount of care and resources must be extended to all refugees and people seeking asylum,” said Basma Alawee, Campaign Manager at We Are All America. “This World Refugee Day, we call on the Biden administration to extend welcome for all those fleeing persecution by rebuilding the infrastructure of refugee resettlement and asylum. Our community is resilient, strong, and unafraid to hold this administration accountable.”

 

“This World Refugee Day marks an unthinkable milestone, with over 100 million refugees and other forcibly displaced persons desperately seeking safety and protection,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “The U.S. must address the needs of refugees and asylum seekers at our border, in our hemisphere, and across the globe as millions of people continue to flee violence and persecution. We must not forget those struggling to achieve an education and a livelihood in protracted crisis settings like Ethiopia, Iraq, and Myanmar while we strive to meet the emergency needs of those displaced from new and emerging crises in places like Ukraine. JRS stands in solidarity with all our displaced brothers and sisters as we work together for a better world.”

 

“This year’s World Refugee Day celebration comes at a time when there are now more than 100 million people worldwide searching for a safe place to call home. Whether they are from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Cameroon, Ethiopia or El Salvador these families have had to make the incredibly difficult decision to leave everything they knew behind to protect themselves and their children from violence and persecution,” said Rick Santos, President and CEO of Church World Service. “Today and every day we honor the resilience and strength of refugee families and celebrate the contributions they bring to our communities. Our nation has a rich and robust legacy of protecting refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution, yet the current resettlement program does not have enough support and capacity to meet this moment of urgent need. We call on the Biden administration and Congress to celebrate World Refugee Day by committing to strengthening our refugee resettlement program, ensuring access to protection for people seeking asylum and ending unjust and inequitable immigration policies that discriminate against Black and Brown migrants seeking safety.”

 

“World Refugee Day is an opportunity to stop, to take pause, and reflect on what we want our country to look like  going forward,” said Naomi Steinberg, Vice President, U.S. Policy & Advocacy, HIAS. It is a perfect time to remind elected officials and our communities of the many ways that the U.S. refugee resettlement program makes the United States stronger, and to honor those who have arrived in this country as refugees in search of safety for their families.  It is also the perfect  time to underscore the importance of rebuilding an asylum system that is fair, humane and orderly and allows people to exercise their legal right to seek protection in the United States.”

 

“World Refugee Day comes at a time when our nation must decide who we want to be going forward,” said Lauren Dasse and Lillian Aponte Miranda, Co-Executive Directors of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “For the last several years, instead of welcoming people at the border with humanity and hospitality, we have torn families apart and turned people away. World Refugee Day is intended to honor the courage and resilience of refugees around the world, but we cannot properly do so while continuing to employ policies that put asylum seekers at our very own border in grave danger and that particularly harm Black, indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and other marginalized asylum seekers.” 

 

“Our country’s values have long been defined by welcoming people fleeing violence and persecution,” said Jeremy Robbins, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “On this World Refugee Day, we must recommit to these principles and to rebuilding our refugee resettlement system. Our refugee neighbors make invaluable contributions to our communities as essential workers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders.” 

 

“World Refugee Day comes at a critical moment for the rights of displaced people. U.S. refugee resettlement is stuck at record lows, while asylum seekers are being turned away at the border in a grotesque violation of our international legal obligations,” said Becca Heller, Executive Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “Today, we call on President Biden to fully live up to his campaign promises to undo the xenophobic policies of the previous administration. The U.S. must have a just immigration system that welcomes and protects refugees and other displaced people. Accessible and effective pathways to safety should be the norm, not the exception, for everyone, regardless of nationality or creed.” 

 

‘World Refugee Day is an annual reminder to honor the lives and human dignity of every vulnerable family, man, woman and child on the move and of the gifts, dreams and hopes they bring which enrich our country’, said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute. ‘Our border communities are beautiful places of encounter and hospitality. We stand ready to welcome and it is time for President Biden and Congress to roll back dangerous and deadly policies like Remain in Mexico and Title 42 once and for all and to fully restore asylum at our borders.’    

 

“We are living a moment in our history we surely will look back on with shame, as we now do our trafficking and enslavement of Africans to build this country, our denial of refuge to Jews during the Holocaust, and our internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.  Just as each of those actions had their uniquely horrific consequences, today our government, legislators and courts are adding to this dark legacy by creating refugee camps at our very doorstep.  We have seldom needed World Refugee Day as much as we do now, a day to remind ourselves of the courage and sacrifices of refugees and asylum seekers in making their journey, celebrate the values and gifts they’ve brought this nation, acknowledge their rightful place inside our borders, and honor them by demanding that our institutions abide by their legal obligations as signatory to the UN Refugee Convention Protocols,” said Susan Alva, Associate Director, Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

 

“People seeking refuge in the United States bring courage, hope, and resilience, and enrich our communities,” said Jonathan Blazer, Director of Border Strategies at the American Civil Liberties Union. “To truly honor refugees’ strength and courage, as World Refugee Day is intended to do, the Biden administration must restore and strengthen protections for all people fleeing violence and persecution.  We cannot celebrate this day while at the same time continuing to fail refugees by denying them their right to seek safety in the United States.” 

 

“On this World Refugee Day, CGRS calls on the United States to live up to its domestic and international obligations to protect those fleeing persecution,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “Amidst an unprecedented global refugee crisis, in which 85% of the world’s refugees are hosted by low- and middle-income nations, we ask the U.S. to do more, commensurate with its global stature. It represents a grave moral failing that people seeking safety at the U.S. border are denied access to protection. We urge President Biden to fulfill his campaign promises to restart asylum at the border, reverse the racist policies of his predecessor, and build an asylum system consistent with our international obligations. We also call on members of Congress to reject any and all legislative proposals that call for restrictions on asylum in exchange for limited benefits for other categories of immigrants. This is a cynical ploy to pit immigrant communities against each other, which would  result in codifying Trump-era cruelty towards people seeking asylum.”

 

“For generations, refugees have enriched the United States through their contributions to our society and national identity,” said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead for Oxfam America. “But too often, this country has failed to recognize these contributions and even actively turned its back on people fleeing persecution, especially Black and brown refugees, in spite of our legal and moral obligations to provide them safe haven. On this World Refugee Day, we honor the refugees who have helped to build this nation, and call on the Biden administration to uphold the rights of people fleeing persecution and violence so that the US can live up to its promise as a welcoming nation for all.”

 

“The urgent need for the U.S. to welcome with dignity those seeking safety has never been clearer,” said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “Yet, as we commemorate Juneteenth and World Refugee Day, it is obvious that racism, xenophobia and apathy are contributing to continued loss of life and deprivation for refugees around the world and those fleeing Haiti in particular. As our colleague Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance put it in a tweet after the funerals for 11 lives lost off the coast of Puerto Rico, ‘I’m tired of burying my compatriots.’ The Biden administration, the Congress and the American people can do more to protect the lives of those seeking survival and opportunity, we just need to summon the will to do so.”

 

“With over 100 million people displaced globally, urgent action is needed to protect the rights of all people fleeing violence and persecution,” said Olga Byrne, Director of Asylum and Immigration Legal Services for the International Rescue Committee. “Seeking asylum is a human right, and it is a moral imperative to give refuge to those fleeing for their lives no matter their nationality, race, religion, color or creed. This year’s World Refugee Day must not simply be a day for reflection. It must be a day for action to ensure all displaced people can exercise their legal right to seek asylum.”

 

“This World Refugee Day, we implore U.S. politicians, states attorneys general, judges and Justices to end the unlawful and immoral suffering of people fleeing for their lives by upholding the legal and human right to seek safety,” said Karen Tumlin, Founder and Director of Justice Action Center. “Well after Trump’s presidency, refugees are still subjected to his hateful policies such as Title 42 and Remain in Mexico. And, having World Refugee Day fall on the same day that we recognize Juneteenth, during Pride Month, is a powerful reminder of the disproportionate impact these cruel policies particularly have on Back and LGBTQ+ refugees—all the while the Biden Administration continues near daily expulsion and deportation flights sending Haitians en masse back to danger. Today and everyday, we demand our leaders to welcome with dignity.”

 

“The U.S. has always prided itself on being a beacon of safety for those fleeing persecution and violence, and has long welcomed those in need of protection,” said Erin Mazursky, Interim Managing Director of Families Belong Together. “Yet, xenophobic policies such as Title 42 and Remain in Mexico have excluded specific Black, brown, indigenous and LGBTQ+ families from seeking safety. To best celebrate World Refugee Day, we must push for policies that reflect our values as a nation. Instead of punishing families who are fleeing dangers and violence, we can do the right thing by welcoming people with dignity. America is at its best when we welcome those in need of protection, regardless of where they’re born or the color of their skin.”

 

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The Welcome with Dignity Campaign is composed of more than 100 national and regional organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org