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Thank you for considering covering this urgent issue to safeguard asylum rights in the Senate funding bill. Virtual Press Kit, including press conference video, available at: Interviews with speakers are available. 

Asylum Under Threat – U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono Speaks Out with Advocates
International Aid Should Not Come at Expense of Asylum Right

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) joined the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights and advocates from leading nonprofits Human Rights First, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Haitian Bridge Alliance in a press conference yesterday to call on the Senate to protect asylum from proposed permanent immigration policy changes that are currently added on to a one-time funding bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The proposed changes include ending most humanitarian parole programs; detaining migrants, including families and children, during their asylum cases; denying asylum seekers their fair day in court; and expanding asylum bans. 

In the virtual event, speakers, including a former asylum seeker, discussed the need to protect and strengthen the asylum system instead of dismantling it. Senator Hirono said Republicans and Democrats alike see the value in a compassionate asylum system and considerations such as granting wider access to work permits for immigrants. As she pointed out, immigrants make up a large percentage of the work force and the fabric of our country. 

“I’m the only immigrant serving in the United States Senate right now. The idea that immigrants come here and we’re just going to sit around or something is not true,” said U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono. “The situation of immigrants is not hypothetical to me. I came to this country because my courageous mother brought me here so we could have a chance at a better life. That’s what immigrants come to our country for. We should enable the kind of support that allows them to seek their dreams.” If passed as written, the bill will instead deny the right to asylum to most individuals seeking safety. 

“These policy changes would cause irreparable harm and effectively gut the U.S. asylum system,” said #WelcomewithDignity Campaign Manager Melina Roche, who moderated the press conference. “We applaud the 11 Senators, including Mazie Hirono and Alex Padilla, for standing up in strong opposition to the proposals last week. We agree that the proposed provisions fail to improve the situation at the border. It is shameful that people’s lives are being traded for an unrelated funding bill, in which permanent asylum policy changes clearly have no place.”

Republican members of Congress who support the provisions claim they would enhance security at the border. Robyn Barnard, director, Human Rights First, said the measures would not be effective: “It’s really about gutting our refugee protection system and reducing the ways people can come in a safe and legal manner, which would only make things worse along the border. People will still come, but without safe options to seek asylum or access to safety, they will be much more likely to come through other immigration pathways which are not safe, nor humane. This is not smart border policy making.”

The decades-long humanitarian parole program is also at risk. According to Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a proposed end to the program authorized by U.S. presidents to vulnerable populations in times of crisis would have devastating consequences.

“What will the history books say about who we are in the United States in 2023 when our policies are not centering humanity, when the policies are not centering the lives of those impacted community members?” said Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. “We must open our hearts and our arms to make sure people fleeing violence and persecution are safe.”

Ray Rodriguez, a former professor from Cuba who received asylum and was previously subjected to Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico,” also shared his personal experience. Similar harmful policies are currently being considered as part of the bill. 

“There’s no safety when we’re back in Mexico at all. We are subjected to violence from the cartels, corruption from the Mexican police. After a long time, I was granted asylum,” said Ray Rodriguez. “The whole asylum process is very difficult to navigate.”

Marisa Limón Garza, executive director at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas; New Mexico; and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, said members of her organization are currently witnessing large amounts of people in distress or dying along the border region as they seek safety in the United States. Las Americas is working tirelessly to help vulnerable people receive asylum and humanitarian parole.  

“Let’s be very clear: The current proposals being talked about will not make us safer. They will create chaos at the border and lead to more immigrants being wrongfully deported to situations where they will face the very same danger they are fleeing from,” said Marisa Limón Garza, executive director at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. “Diminishing or eliminating asylum protections when vulnerable individuals most need it would be detrimental. We urge Congress to uphold the United States’ values and listen to organizations on the ground doing the work of welcome. This includes adopting border and immigration policies that strengthen our asylum system, not gutting it.” 



Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity.


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: