FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 28, 2023
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Additional Pathways to Safety Must Not Come at the Expense of Access to Asylum at the Border
WASHINGTON – The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign issued the following response to this week’s announcement about new asylum policies to be implemented as Title 42 ends.
“Expanding family reunification parole pathways and refugee processing for displaced people in the Americas is long overdue, but we cannot ignore that the Biden administration is proposing a Faustian bargain by simultaneously seeking to implement a Trump-era asylum ban at the U.S.-Mexico border, effectively slamming the door shut on countless others in need,” said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director at the International Refugee Assistance project (IRAP). “Framing USRAP as a border management tool risks further politicizing a program already at a crossroads, and should not come at the expense of asylum protections. There should be more pathways to safety for people in the Americas, not fewer.”
“The United States can and should be scaling up access to permanent protections for the displaced across both the U.S. resettlement and asylum programs. We simply don’t accept pitting one region against another, nor asylum seekers against refugees. Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. Now is the time to expand our nation’s capacity to welcome, and we hope the administration keeps this in mind,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “With the immorally-delayed end of Title 42, we utterly abhor this administration’s plans to restore a harmful Trump-era asylum ban that forced thousands of asylum seekers back to the very danger they were fleeing—a rule that was, at its introduction, blocked by the courts. We, of course, believe that Title 42 should be eliminated, but to replace it with an asylum ban, expedited removal, and more deportations, as proposed by the administration, is a callous bait-and-switch that will cost lives and undermine the legal right to seek safety. The White House must reconsider.”
“Afghans have been forced to make a long and difficult journey to the U.S.-Mexico border via Brazil, as a direct result of the lack of pathways available to them, and the barriers placed in front of them in their attempts to access the pathways that do exist,” said Laila Ayub, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Project ANAR. “When there are no pathways available to you, the only way to seek safety is to physically present yourself at the border. Afghans, like everybody else, who make that journey, are doing so out of necessity. With the end of Title 42, the Biden administration had an opportunity to rebuild and replace the systems that the Trump administration eroded. Instead, they have found innovative ways to resurrect anti-asylum policies. Our communities deserve accessible humanitarian pathways, but those can never be a replacement for a welcoming border.”
“Las Americas supports efforts to expand family reunification pathways for people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia, however, we are deeply concerned about the administration’s continuous focus on deterrence policies instead of utilizing resources to make the U.S. asylum system accessible and equitable,” shared Jennifer Babaie, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. “Based on the information released yesterday, it seems that the administration seeks to make it easier to remove individuals and families from the U.S. without due process protections by making it ever more difficult to qualify for asylum. This is both cruel and a violation of our legal obligations. Everyone deserves safety, regardless of where they live. We urge the Biden administration to work closely with direct service providers to maximize refugee resettlement and to make it complementary to, rather than a replacement for, asylum at the U.S./Mexico border.”
“We are encouraged that administration officials are working to increase resettlement and bring more refugees from around the Western Hemisphere to the United States—an expansion that HIAS has long called for,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “But while expanding resettlement is a good approach to promote safe passage and protection, it must not be treated as a rationale for restricting asylum. Resettlement should be used not to replace access to asylum, but to relieve pressure on the asylum system and—more importantly—to save lives, so that those people who can access resettlement won’t take the dangerous journey to find protection.”
“People seeking safety and refuge at our border are fleeing dangerous and difficult situations, both in their home countries and in Mexico, where many are stuck awaiting an appointment. While we are encouraged by the administration taking proactive steps to create additional processing capacity, there are serious issues with this approach,” said Kassandra Gonzalez, Attorney with the Beyond Borders Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “The goal of Biden’s immigration agenda is clear: remove people as quickly as possible, deter migration, and erect barriers to people seeking asylum. Once again the administration is resorting to policies used by Trump—policies that Biden himself once denounced as cruel. We call on the Biden Administration and Congress to restore full access to our asylum system and to adopt immigration policies that welcome people with dignity, including decriminalizing migration and offering accessible lawful pathways to entry.”
“Yesterday’s announcement is emblematic of the Biden administration’s attempt to have it both ways when it comes to asylum,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “Time and time again, the administration touts narrow legal pathways, while simultaneously pursuing some of the most radical anti-asylum policies in recent history. Even more insidious, these new programs are weaponized against the most vulnerable refugees, many of whom will be denied their right to seek asylum at the U.S. border under the premise that they should have applied another way. This flies in the face of our laws and treaty obligations and makes a mockery of the U.S. asylum system—which was designed to ensure the protection of refugees who cannot wait for an application to be adjudicated before reaching U.S. territory, because their lives are under imminent threat.”
“This announcement marks yet another move by the Biden administration to outsource our protection responsibilities to other countries in the region,” said Felipe Navarro Lux, Manager of Regional Initiatives at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “While the creation of regional processing centers is a welcome step, pairing it with the asylum ban and increased migration enforcement will trap people fleeing persecution in places where they are not safe, rather than offer an additional path to protection. Countries like Guatemala and Colombia can be profoundly dangerous for people fleeing persecution.”
“While we welcome the Administration’s recognition of the need to increase pathways and access to protection for people from Central and South America with the creation of Regional Processing Centers announced today and expansion of parole programs, we reiterate that the Biden Administration’s solemn obligation is to fully restore access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).
“Yesterday’s announcement is far too reliant on punitive measures and could result in the needless criminalization of many migrants who would be punished for not using a process unknown or unavailable to them. What we have is a scarred asylum landscape in need of regeneration, but the added deterrence presents additional obstacles on top of the proposed asylum transit ban.
“Though the implementation details are unclear, we do hope that the Regional Processing Centers can increase protections and access to the refugee and asylum statuses for some of the most vulnerable. Yet, these are wholly untried and can at best only complement traditional asylum.
“CHIRLA is committed to restoring, rebuilding and renewing our asylum and immigration systems, especially at the southern border for those coming to our country seeking safety and protection for themselves and their loved ones. We know we can welcome more with dignity.”
“With the lifting of Title 42, the Biden administration had a remarkable opportunity to make good on its commitments to finally infuse U.S. immigration policy with humanity and compassion,” said Heidi Altman, Policy Director at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Instead, this announcement tragically moves in the opposite direction, affirming and expanding punitive policies designed to block refugees from accessing asylum protections. We continue to urge the administration to reverse course—many lives, and the survival of the U.S. asylum system, is at stake.”
“Based on our experience working directly with asylum-seekers in Mexico headed for the United States, deterrence simply does not work, added Arturo Viscarra, International Program Manager at CHIRLA.
“When you shut the doors to asylum, folks fleeing violence and misery do not give up, those who cannot take advantage of the ‘legal pathways’ seek alternatives often rooted in false information and spread in social media by the very traffickers these policies purport to weaken. The recent announcements appear to position ‘expedited removal’ processes at the border, and worse in CBP custody, as such a deterrence mechanism. Aside from not dissuading the persecuted from trying to get to the border, it will further undermine due process in the asylum system.
“Also, if as may well happen, the Regional Processing Centers also become centers for rejection for many, these migrants will simply avoid them. The funds and efforts used for them would be better invested in the welcoming border communities and NGOs with whom the Administration already works.”
“We cannot build safe, orderly and fair migration systems while at the same time gutting crucial and legal lifelines for others. The US cannot condition asylum access on manner of entry or certain routes to safety for people who do not have the luxury of choosing how they flee,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director, The Advocates for Human Rights. “We welcome President Biden’s effort to expand processing and pathways through refugee processing and parole programs, but caution that we must do so while upholding the right to apply for asylum at the border and within the US. Anything less risks violating our legal and moral obligations, harming individuals and families.”
“Once again, the administration offers border policies that sacrifice the integrity of the asylum process and our nation’s moral and legal commitments to provide safe haven for those fleeing persecution in their countries of origin,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “Consistent with our obligations, new regional processing centers might speed the safe entry into the United States of vulnerable survivors of gender-based and other violence. But doubling down on the unlawful proposed asylum ban rule and expanded expedited removal manifestly abandons the most vulnerable people in increasingly dangerous areas, reneging on this administration’s promises to restore access to asylum and return humanity to our southern border.”
“Punishing asylum seekers with deportation and banishment for pursuing safety through an internationally-recognized and protected pathway will surely lead to their harm and leave us in breach of our moral and legal obligations,” said Priscilla Orta, Supervising Attorney for Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon. “While we welcome the announced expansion to refugee admissions and the creation of new pathways to protection for people from Central and South America, we are deeply concerned that the Biden Administration is doubling down on its limitations for seeking asylum, a human right that is recognized by both domestic and international law. Additionally, we find framing the refugee program as a tool to help manage border migration particularly harmful and politically wrought. As President Biden reminded us on World Refugee Day, ‘as Americans, protecting and welcoming refugees is part of who we are.’”
“Yesterday DHS announced new measures to limit avenues for asylum seekers to enter the United States through what they called an expansion of “safe and legal pathways” for migrants in light of the proposed end of Title 42,” said Lariza Dugan Cuadra, Executive Director at The Central American Resource Center of Northern CA – CARECEN SF.
“CARECEN San Francisco supports and calls for programs that uphold Due Process and honor people’s struggle, dignity, and bravery in asserting their right to asylum. These measures inhumanely increase barriers for migrants seeking refuge. Limiting access to the CBPOne App fails to account for gaps in technology, language access, disability accommodation, and economic disparities between groups of migrants. The right to asylum is for everyone who faces persecution, including—and especially—for the people whose lack of financial and educational resources puts barriers in their way. The result will be an asylum system that leaves behind those with fewer resources, often those in the greatest need. These measures represent a clear externalization of the U.S. border to other countries.
“We are concerned that these measures in no way recognize the root causes of migration and weaken existing U.S. immigration policies and international obligations that otherwise would allow entry into the U.S. to asylum seekers. The parole pathways are welcomed and important in the larger context of U.S. immigration policy. Still, they should never be considered a replacement or substitute for non-discriminatory access to asylum at the border. Lastly, these new drastic measures will result in more confusion along the border. This confusion will leave immigrants and their loved ones vulnerable to increased extortions and scams due to a lack of information or a clear understanding of how each program works. CARECEN SF strongly opposes these proposed measures because they violate the existing statutory framework and mandate the Homeland Security Department to protect and provide a fair process to asylum seekers.”
“We are encouraged by the administration’s efforts to expand legal pathways, but these must not come at the cost of our asylum system,” said the Quixote Center team. “Many people fleeing danger and persecution do not have the time or resources to wait for safety, and they must not be penalized simply for being vulnerable. We are greatly dismayed by the expansion of funding for ICE and CBP, which are rife with human rights abuses and mismanaged funding. History has proven that our country stands stronger when we welcome migrants. Investment in our communities and humane welcoming, rather than increased punishment and incarceration for people and families seeking safety, will ensure a better future for all.”
“Once again, the Biden administration has paired limited steps to expand migration opportunities for certain people with draconian escalation of anti-asylum measures, punishing people who need the protection of the United States the most,” said Laura St. John, Florence Project Legal Director. “Rather than returning robust asylum processing, the Biden administration is replacing Title 42 with other measures that drastically restrict access to asylum. Expedited removal policies do not work as a deterrent, and even more alarmingly, they prioritize expediency over accuracy and due process. Additionally, while we support alternative migration pathways, the reality is that there are more questions than answers about the proposed regional processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala, and these types of centers are not viable solutions for people fleeing for their lives. Unfortunately, these countries have not been safe for migrants historically. We are disheartened that the President continues to break the promises he made during his campaign in 2020, but we continue to stand in solidarity with asylum seekers and will fight for the restoration of a robust, fair, and functional asylum system.”
“The Biden administration sacrificing the right to seek asylum at our southern border for supposed new pathways is deplorable,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “In all of the announcements of new processing centers in Guatemala and Colombia, new pathways are simply barriers for all the populations left out, especially indigenous, and Black immigrants.”
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The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is composed of more than 100 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