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Biden Asylum Ban: “Abysmal Abdication of Leadership”

WASHINGTON The Biden administration announced it will publish a final rule implementing a new asylum ban on May 16 (effective May 11), in place of the Title 42 pandemic restrictions that are ending tomorrow. The administration is moving full steam ahead with a new asylum ban despite staunch opposition.

In a webinar,  Melissa Crow, Director of Litigation, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies; Patrick Giuliani, Policy Analyst, Hope Border Institute; Katrina Eiland, Managing Attorney, Immigrants’ Rights Project, ACLU; and Bilal Askaryar, Interim Campaign Director of Welcome With Dignity, addressed reporters’ questions. Access a recording of the webinar here.

The Biden ban requires people who are traveling to the U.S. by land to first seek asylum in another country, and be denied, before applying for asylum in the United States. It includes narrow exemptions and will surely lead to the death of people who believed the U.S. would provide protection, as El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz warned

Partners in the Welcome With Dignity campaign for asylum rights protested outside the White House multiple times and organized tens of thousands of people who filed opposition to the ban through the federal rule-making process. Yet the voices of U.S. Americans who want our country to show leadership in refugee protection, not cowardice, are being ignored. Following are quotes from leaders of the campaign. 

“The stories of so many families and individuals weigh heavily on my conscience as I continue witnessing stricter and inhumane border restrictions being implemented one day before the end of Title 42,” said Pedro De Velasco, Director of Education and Advocacy for the Kino Border Initiative. “How can we look our brothers and sisters into their eyes after they have survived the most unimaginable violence and persecution and tell them that the only way to access much needed asylum is through a dysfunctional application like CBP One. Migrants from all across the region tell us daily that the violence they have endured in Mexico was worse than any horrors they survived journeying through the Darien Gap. Now, these individuals and families are forced to wait their turn to schedule an appointment through CBP One in the same country that endangered them. To add salt to the wound, the Biden administration dares to dismiss over 50,000 public comments against the asylum ban and to proclaim the regulation as ‘humane.’ Our faith teaches us to welcome the stranger and protect people from violence, especially those most at risk. This regulation does the opposite and is therefore far from humane.”

“The Biden administration has taken a page from Stephen Miller’s playbook and is returning the United States to racist policies that only make asylum available to those who can afford smartphones, write in one of three languages, and do not have dark skin tones. We call on the administration to restore access to the asylum system for everyone, as is required by law,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG).

“It is extremely disappointing that the Biden Administration has unequivocally ignored the concerns raised regarding the detrimental impacts Indigenous asylum seekers will face as a result of the asylum ban,” said Lorena Brady, Policy and Program Manager with the International Mayan League. “Placing the undue burden on any asylum seeker, particularly Indigenous peoples, to provide sufficient evidence of why they warrant an exemption from the rule, when often they cannot communicate in Spanish, is unacceptable. It is long overdue for this administration to take concerns and recommendations by Indigenous peoples and allies into account, and establish an advisory group to develop adequate solutions that uphold and respect Indigenous peoples’ distinct rights as recognized in international human rights standards.” 

“The Biden administration’s new rule is cruel and in blatant disregard to our international obligations to accept those seeking refuge from persecution within our borders,” said Priscilla Orta, Supervising Attorney for Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon. “Under the rule, Project Corazon’s clients, who are LGBTQ+ people, political activists, racial minorities, victims of torture, and other people fleeing violent persecution in their countries of origin, will no long have a viable pathway to fair, orderly asylum processing. Instead, they will face the dilemma of risking deportation and banishment from the U.S., or remaining in countries that have poorly functioning or non-existent asylum systems, many of which pose the same dangers to our clients as their home countries. In fact, this rule increasingly endangers the thousands of vulnerable women, children, and families who are forced to live on the streets of border cities in Mexico, where cartel violence is currently escalating. We call on the administration to immediately withdraw the rule and instead pursue pathways to fair, orderly migration that restore full asylum.”

“Asylum seekers come to the U.S. for protection because they know they will not find it in any other country on their route to the U.S. This new rule denies protection and adds a requirement: exhausting remedies, in this case, seeking protection in a country en route to the U.S. These measures are geared towards limiting and stopping the entry of poor and vulnerable people into the U.S. The U.S. government is trying to force them to seek protection in another country before coming to the United States., even though it is aware that such protection is non-existent,” said Oscar Chacón, Executive Director of Alianza Americas.

“The Biden administration’s decision is an abysmal abdication of leadership and a legal, moral, and political mistake,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “On the campaign trail, Biden unequivocally pledged to restore asylum and keep families together. This rule breaks that promise. It will separate families, and deliver refugees to torture, persecution, and death. The use of this new asylum bar in expedited removals will turn protection screening into a sham process to rapidly deport refugees who qualify for asylum under our laws. The Biden administration should rescind this rule and instead focus on humane and effective measures—like sharply increasing asylum capacity at ports of entry, escalating adjudication and humanitarian reception capacities, and strengthening regular pathways to the United States.”

“We are deeply disappointed that the Biden administration has chosen to proceed with its asylum ban, a policy in clear violation of international and U.S. law. This policy will deny the right of protection to vulnerable people seeking safety,” said Professor Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “People fleeing persecution have a right to seek asylum, and our laws do not require that they seek asylum in countries of transit, or only enter at ports of entry. This is an abdication of our legal and moral obligations to refugees that puts political expediency before human lives. CGRS and our partners will be challenging the ban in court. We will not permit this administration to dismantle our refugee protection system.”

“With the implementation of these new policies, the administration is going out of its way to be cruel and further human misery instead of reallocating resources and seeking meaningful solutions that would protect our communities. It is an insult to the individuals seeking safety—and to the groups that work with them and the communities that house them—to lift one deadly policy only to replace it with another. Many many people fleeing for their lives will be banned from seeking protection and entering the country because of this xenophobic, racist policy. Both U.S. and international law protect the right to seek asylum, regardless of whether someone arrives by air or foot, at a bridge, or through a river,” said Jennifer Babaie, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. “President Biden campaigned to roll back the harmful policies of the Trump administration, a promise the Biden administration has now callously and repeatedly broken. Vulnerable people arriving at our borders need humanitarian assistance, community care, case management services, and welcome, not cruelty, not deterrence, and not further risks of harm.”

“For three years, Title 42 has denied people access to our protection and, as it ends, the administration has chosen to enact sweeping, illegal, and damning changes to our asylum system. The asylum ban is aimed at the most vulnerable among us. It is heaping cruelty on those with the least privilege, those most in need of our help. The asylum ban is a travesty of justice and reflects the moral basement the Biden administration has fallen into,” said Immigrant Defenders Law Center’s Executive Director Lindsay Toczylowski.

“It is deeply troubling that the Biden administration has chosen to rush forward with this rule, knowing full well it will inflict needless suffering and harm at the border,” said Laurie Ball Cooper, U.S. Legal Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “The Biden administration should be ashamed of pursuing Trump-era policies to unjustly deny protection to people seeking safety in the United States and return them to danger. The administration must immediately rescind this harmful and illegal rule.”

“This asylum ban is nothing more than a rebranding of the harmful and racist policies of the Trump administration, which forced so many people and families, including children, into harm’s way,” said Abby Maxman, President & CEO of Oxfam America. “We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: seeking asylum is a legal and human right—one that must not depend on which country you flee, the path of your journey to the United States, or your manner of entry. Oxfam America is in solidarity with all people seeking asylum and will work with them and on their behalf to ensure that President Biden keeps his promise to ‘reassert America’s commitment to asylum seekers and refugees.’” 

“Asylum seekers are not and have never been a threat to the health and safety of the United States,” said Swapna Reddy, Co-Executive Director at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). “They are some of the most significant contributors to its economic and social success. We encourage the Biden administration to reverse course and welcome asylum seekers with dignity, so that ASAP members and their families can build good lives in the United States. That means allocating more resources to processing asylum applications and work permits, not deploying troops and implementing new asylum bans and deterrence tactics that have proven ineffective time and again.”

“We are deeply disturbed by the issuance of a final rule reinstating a version of a Trump-era asylum transit and entry ban at the border. The American people have repeatedly urged the Biden administration to put an end to punitive asylum restrictions that sow disorder and bring harm to those fleeing persecution, with over 50,000 public comments opposing this rule illustrating their opposition,” said Danilo Zak, Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy at CWS. “We have seen the irreparable damage, trauma, and loss of life caused by bans like this one. As long as we have policies in place that refuse to respect the humanity of the most vulnerable, we are choosing to undermine American values. It’s long past time for the White House to keep its promise to establish more welcoming border policies, and this rule illustrates yet another refusal to do so.” 

“We have witnessed firsthand the dangers that migrants face when they are blocked from seeking asylum. Mexico, Panama, or virtually any country along the migratory route are not safe or viable options for people fleeing danger,” said Quixote Center Executive Director Dr. Kim Lamberty. “We are disappointed that the Biden administration is choosing to ignore the voices of the 50,000 Americans who spoke out against this rule, as well as its obligation to safeguard families and people seeking asylum under international law.”

“We are appalled that the Biden administration has chosen to enact even more draconian policies against asylum as Title 42 is set to expire,” said Rabbi Joshua Lesser, President Bridges Faith Initiative. “The administration and Congress must remember the mistakes the U.S made when it turned away Jews fleeing on the ship St. Louis, and enact policies that ensure we never again turn away people fleeing danger but only welcome with dignity. The moral culpability of standing idly by as people die is too heavy to bear.”

“This asylum ban rule is a travesty, and a failure of courage and justice,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Government Relations Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “The administration has chosen to ignore the calls of many people across the country who called for the rescission of this ban, knowing full well that its enactment will bring danger and death to individuals seeking safety, especially indigenous and black people.”

“In barring asylum, the United States government is subjecting asylum-seeking families and children to more—and unnecessary—danger and violence,” said Janti Soeripto, President and CEO of Save the Children. “The asylum ban will cause family separations and force children and families to seek refuge in countries in which asylum protections are lacking or non-existent. The United States must be committed to protecting human rights and providing a safe haven for those in need. As we’ve said time and time again, while we understand the complexities of rebuilding a broken immigration system, policies that put children and families in danger are not the solution—they’re unacceptable, morally and legally.”  

“Asylum seekers are our world’s most vulnerable individuals and families. They deserve a humane and just process when arriving at the U.S. border.  While we  are disillusioned that this administration is neglecting its legal duty to offer due process to all asylum applicants, we renew our commitment to represent and defend asylum seekers in their applications at the Asylum Offices and in the Immigration Courts.  Our attorneys are up for this challenge and in partnership with our deserving clients, will prevail,” noted Amanda Alvarado Ford, Executive Director and Immigration Attorney at La Raza Centro Legal – San Francisco. 

“While community advocates are glad to see the ending of Title 42, we strongly condemn the current asylum ban that is being imposed by the Biden administration. As a former refugee who once sought refuge in this country, we should be opening our doors to those who are most vulnerable and facing danger, not closing them,” said Nejra Sumic, National Field Manager with We Are All America. “It is a legal and human right to seek asylum and we need to hold the administration accountable in rescinding this rule and instead focus on humane and effective measures.”

“The U.S. has an unequivocal obligation under U.S. and international law to provide protections to people seeking safety from harm. Yet, with the decision to issue its asylum ban regulation, the Biden administration is putting the U.S. on-track to continue violations of these rights as well as our national values of welcome,” said Michele Garnett-McKenzie, Deputy Director at The Advocates for Human Rights.  “Asylum is a crucial lifeline for those most vulnerable who do not have the luxury of processing through preferred, safe pathways. By rushing to finalize this illegal, harmful, and immoral rule, the Biden administration ignored the tens of thousands of individuals and experts who submitted comments identifying issues as well as viable alternatives. Providing and encouraging safe, orderly, and fair pathways to migration makes our communities stronger and more just; however, the U.S. cannot condition asylum protections on use of those pathways—seeking protection is always a lawful pathway to immigration under U.S. and international law.”

 “We are deeply concerned about the impact this asylum rule will have on the safety and well-being of people seeking asylum,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “We urge the U.S. government to remember its promises to asylum seekers by providing pathways to protection that uphold the human rights and safety of all.”

“Today, the Biden administration released a final rule that will bar asylum for nearly all individuals. The Women’s Refugee Commission has made it clear that replacing Title 42 with new barriers to asylum violates U.S. law and treaty obligations, contradicts the administration’s long-stated regional migration objectives, strains asylum systems in the region, and harms women, children, and other vulnerable populations,” said Katharina Obser, the director of the Women’s Refugee Commission Migrant Rights and Justice program. “Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, these restrictive measures will not stop people from fleeing their homes and seeking protection. As we have documented time and again, people do not make the decision to uproot their families lightly or based on the policies of any one country, but because they feel they have no other choice left but to seek safety for their families and children. We call on the Biden administration and Congress to once and for all reject anti-asylum policies and instead invest in the orderly reception of people exercising their legal right to seek safety. We stand ready to work with the administration to create the fair and dignified asylum system that is long overdue.”

“This rule is cruel, punitive, and effectively ends asylum for the majority of people we serve,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “Rather than using his presidency to restore humanity and dignity to the border, President Biden has chosen to double down on the Trump playbook and implement a slew of anti-immigrant restrictions that will illegally block thousands of people from accessing protection in the United States. We are bitterly disappointed that despite tens of thousands of comments in opposition and the abject cruelty of this rule, the administration has decided to move forward with it. In addition to narrowing the pathway for accessing asylum to a largely inaccessible and discriminatory app, the rule implements extremely punitive consequences for people who enter between ports of entry, something that even a cruel expulsion policy like Title 42 didn’t do. We stand in solidarity with the people we serve and partner organizations in wholeheartedly opposing this rule and will continue to strive for a welcoming border for all.”   

“People should have the legal right to seek asylum at our borders, no matter how they arrived or if they managed to secure an appointment in advance. President Biden’s asylum ban will end that right, including for children and families,” said Mary Miller Flowers, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “As we’ve seen before, transit bans return children to known danger and will force many families to separate to give their kids a shot at protection. The end of Title 42 tomorrow should represent an opportunity for the administration to chart a new, fair course for immigration policy that safely welcomes asylum seekers and supports both border and receiving communities. Instead, the new ban will expand upon and worsen the devastation we witnessed under Title 42. Our position is unwavering: all people must have access to fair immigration processes that prioritize the safety of people seeking protection.”



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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.or