Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2023

Press Contact: Bilal Askaryar | | 646-899-9722

Biden’s Asylum Ban Will Return Refugees to Danger and Death

“Trump’s cruel playbook is now Biden’s legacy”

#WelcomeWithDignity has humane solutions instead of deadly bans

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration just announced a proposed federal rule to implement a near-total asylum ban at the U.S. southern border. The rule will be officially published on February 23, and comments from the public will be accepted for 30 days. The administration’s clear goal is to fast-track this radical change to asylum access. Partners in the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights react below.

“With the introduction of this proposed rule, Trump’s cruel playbook will now be Biden’s legacy,” said Bilal Askaryar, Interim Campaign Manager. “The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights calls on President Biden to reverse course. We have compiled our best recommendations and solutions and shared them with Biden’s administration multiple times. We have also pointed out that policies like an asylum transit ban are, in effect, a ban on Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor people. Despite this, President Biden is doubling down on cruel and likely illegal policies that will undermine our life-saving asylum system for decades. If President Biden goes forward with this policy, he should dismantle the Statue of Liberty as well.”

“We are deeply disappointed that the Biden administration is adopting this highly restrictive policy, which will prevent many asylum seekers from exercising their right to seek safety in the U.S. and keep vulnerable people in harm’s way,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “While there are real challenges at the border, those require planning and solutions. This ban will not filter out people with weak asylum claims—instead, it will prevent the most vulnerable from accessing the asylum system altogether. The U.S. government can and must do better to create a safe, orderly, and humane process for those seeking asylum at our border.”

“The proposed asylum ban not only violates federal law and international law, but also operates as a true mirror which reflects the nation that the United States government strives to be—a nation THAT erects countless barriers for those fleeing persecution, including illegal externalization and expulsion policies, illegal limitations on the right to seek asylum, such as thIS proposed rule, and the funding of foreign armed forces to brutally beat back migrants as they attempt to make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Nicole Ramos, Border Rights Project director for Al Otro Lado. “Countless atrocities this shameful government commits, to ensure that thousands of refugees who would otherwise live, end up dying on our doorstep—all while pretending that we are a champion of human rights and the ‘land of the free.’”

“This rule reaches into the dustbin of history to reinstitute one of the most harmful and illegal anti-asylum policies of the Trump administration,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “It defies decades of humanitarian protections enshrined in U.S. law and international agreements, and flagrantly violates President Biden’s own campaign promises to restore asylum. Requiring persecuted people to first seek protection in countries with no functioning asylum systems themselves is a ludicrous and life-threatening proposal.”

“President Biden campaigned on restoring the soul of America, which includes restoring our asylum system. Instead, President Biden has made it a practice of recycling xenophobic Trump-era policies rooted in deterrence, like this asylum transit ban announced today,” said Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Haitian Bridge Alliance. “This policy will prevent extremely vulnerable people, especially Black and LGBTQIA+ from exercising their right to seek asylum in the United States and get access to lifesaving protection. This is absurd and illegal and will effectively shut down our asylum system, denying many the opportunity to seek safety. This policy will force vulnerable people including children into the traps of human traffickers instead of getting them to safety. We urge President Biden and his administration to immediately change course, uphold our human rights obligations, and create pathways for all seeking safety—regardless of how they reach our borders and shores. And make sure we are on the right side of History” 

“This announcement represents a blatant embrace of hateful and illegal anti-asylum policies, which will lead to unnecessary human suffering. Time after time, President Biden has broken his campaign promises to end restrictions on asylum seekers traveling through other countries. These are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and thousands of children who are simply looking for a fair chance for their case to be heard,” shared Marisa Limón Garza, Executive Director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. “We urge the Biden administration to abandon policy initiatives that further the inhumane agenda of the Trump administration.

“It is deeply disappointing to see the Biden administration recycle immigration policies from the Trump administration that inflict harm on those seeking safety,” said Efrén C. Olivares, Deputy Legal Director for Immigrant Justice at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We call on the administration to leave behind the cruel and enjoined policies of the prior administration, and instead uphold its campaign promises to rebuild our asylum system. The way to follow through on those promises is to ensure that those seeking protection are promptly and humanely welcomed, not to look for alternative ways to send them back to danger. Our clients—asylum seekers detained in the Deep South—have already experienced enough harm in their home countries, and this asylum ban is yet another way in which our immigration system would fail them. It is high time to live up to our nation’s values.”

“People fleeing persecution have a legal and moral right to seek asylum at our border, no matter how they get here,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “This rule is an affront to our laws, treaty obligations, and the United States’ longstanding tradition of welcoming refugees. It is utterly shameful that, once again, the Biden administration is reverting the Trump playbook and putting political expediency before human lives. This rule would outsource our asylum obligations to countries that are unsafe for refugees and wholly unequipped to receive the vulnerable people our government turns away. It would return people to dangerous conditions, tear refugee families apart, and inflict profound suffering. We are prepared to fight vigorously to ensure the rule cannot take effect.”

“The White House’s new rule denying asylum to people fleeing for their lives, based on what countries they are traveling through and how they enter the United States, will diminish access to asylum as we know it,” said Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director of the Latin America Working Group. “For people fleeing many of the Western Hemisphere countries currently in crisis, for example, it means they are forced to apply for asylum in countries where their lives may still be very much in danger, and which offer slow-moving access to asylum for only a fraction of those who desperately need it.  The upshot is, many of those who are fleeing for their lives will be left in bureaucratic limbo—and deadly danger.”

Angelica Salas, Director of CHIRLA, said “It is extremely disappointing that the Biden administration is once again proposing immigration policies straight out of the Trump and Stephen Miller xenophobic playbook. The proposed transit ban—a policy already deemed illegal by our Courts—will not deter people who are seeking asylum from coming to the U.S. Instead, it will strip the most vulnerable individuals and families of their rights under U.S. and international law by permitting their rapid return to the danger they are running from.

“This rule would force asylum seekers to apply for asylum in dangerous countries that they traverse, countries with no infrastructure or political will to safely resettle them. We need to restore and rebuild our asylum and immigration systems, not create or recreate inhumane, illegal, and dangerous policies against those coming to our country seeking safety and protection for themselves and their loved ones.”

“The announcement by the Administration of its intent to implement a copycat Trump transit asylum ban is not only a full-throated assault on the asylum system, it is also a betrayal of those who believed President Biden’s campaign promise that he would ‘restore the soul’ of the nation,” said Thomas Cartwright, Leadership Team member with Witness at the Border. “This is not restoring our soul; it is scarring our soul to pander to the anti-immigrant forces. We urge the Administration to reverse course and to live up to promises made.”

“With this effective transit ban, the Biden administration is sadly embracing the previous administration’s discriminatory logic of deterrence and pain at the border. The ban unfairly targets those fleeing from northern Central American countries, for whom the administration has provided no parole options. To be clear, this ban is regressive, illegal, and will put lives at risk,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute. “There is nothing but a lack of courage preventing this administration from taking positive steps now to repudiate the damage of the previous administration and finally put in place a functioning, safe, rights-respecting system at the border that works for asylum seekers and our border communities.” 

“This sweeping asylum ban will shut the door to countless refugees seeking safety and protection in the United States,” said Abby Maxman, Oxfam America’s President and CEO. “President Biden promised to reject the harmful policies of the Trump administration and restore and protect the rights of asylum seekers. But this policy is a page taken from the Trump administration’s racist, anti-refugee playbook. We urge President Biden to immediately change course and keep his promise to ‘reassert America’s commitment to asylum seekers and refugees.'”

“International law and federal statutes are clear: the U.S. cannot return people to face persecution, torture, or gross human rights violations. Banning people from seeking asylum threatens individual lives and dismantles the most important safety net for people fleeing oppression—people the U.S. has long sworn to protect,” said Robin Philips, Executive Director of The Advocates for Human Rights.  “We know from our 40 years of work with asylum seekers that individuals fleeing harm do not have the luxury of choosing their route or manner of seeking safety. Denying protections on those grounds, as the Biden administration proposes to do, violates the spirit and text of the Refugee Convention, the Refugee Act, and our U.S. moral promise to do right by those in need.” 

“We are outraged by President Biden’s recent transit ban, expanding the previous administration’s inhumane policies denying safety to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. The transit ban is a death sentence for fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters displaced from their home countries in search of opportunity, dignity, and community.” said Nicole Melaku, Executive Director of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) “The initiation of this transit ban showcases the Biden administration’s failure to recognize migration as a human rights issue and the urgent need to help those seeking refuge and safety in the United States.” 

“We are outraged to hear the new development of the transit ban by the Biden administration. The transit ban would make it impossible for people traveling through a third country to claim asylum. This rule would put thousands of people vulnerable to the unsafe living conditions happening at the border,” said Basma Alawee, Director of We Are All America. “There are ways of addressing the needs of migrants in a way that is humane and welcoming. However, the Biden administration has repeatedly shown that it does not side with migrants, rather, it prioritizes deflecting any accusations made by anti-immigrant and anti-refugee politicians. We urge the Biden administration to create more humane solutions.”

“By pursuing a policy that advances the agenda of the Trump administration and anti-immigrant hate groups, the Biden administration is making a horrible humanitarian, legal, and political mistake,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “Asylum bans breach domestic laws and international treaties, separate families, and threaten the safety of those seeking asylum. This policy defies the administration’s professed commitments to racial equity, and directly contradicts President Biden’s previous campaign promises. We urge the administration to reverse course and uphold the human right to seek asylum.”

“The Biden administration’s proposed rule to bar asylum seekers based on how they entered, or for not seeking protection in a country through which they transited, demonstrates a lack of will to act decisively to protect vulnerable refugees,” said Quixote Center Executive Director Dr. Kim Lamberty. “As President Biden himself has acknowledged, no one leaves their home simply because they want to. No amount of new restrictions will ever be enough to appease anti-immigrant leaders, nor will they stop desperate families and migrants from needing to flee in order to find safety. In many cases, countries along the migratory route are just as dangerous, if not more, for asylum seekers, who risk kidnapping, human trafficking, and even death. Our country is more than capable of creating a humane and dignified asylum system.”

“Everyone who comes to the U.S. seeking safety—no matter where they are from or how they arrived—must be given a fair chance to seek asylum,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “Policies that aim to stop migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S.—like this latest “Asylum ban”—do not succeed at deterring migration. Instead, they harm the most vulnerable groups of people, including women, girls, and LGBTQIA+ individuals seeking safety from life-threatening persecution. It is disheartening to see the same failed policies put forward instead of a bold plan to create an immigration system that decreases chaos and uncertainty; lives up to the promises made by this administration; and protects survivors of violence rightfully seeking safety in our country.” 

“It’s impossible to imagine how the Biden administration’s revival of this cruel Trump-era policy could be legal,” said Carolina Jiménez Sandoval, president of the Washington Office on Latin America. “A federal court struck down a similar measure in 2020. U.S. law clearly provides only two circumstances in which asylum seekers can be excluded by a transit ban: if a ‘safe third country agreement’ exists, or if the migrant was ‘firmly settled’ in another country. These conditions almost never apply. People fleeing violence and persecution have the human right to seek protection regardless of how they arrived. Curtailing access to asylum also sets a dangerous precedent that other countries in the region might model.”

“The success of our southern border should not be measured by the number of people we turn away to death and persecution, but by the number of people we welcome to safety,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “It is shameful that the Biden administration has proposed this new rule, ending the right to seek asylum on our southern border. The southern border is where the most vulnerable Black and Brown immigrants come to seek safety.” 

“We must not repeat our nation’s mistakes of the past. This proposed rule is reminiscent of the times that the United States found excuses to turn back Jewish people and others escaping the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Joshua Lesser, President, Bridges Faith Initiative. “The Biden administration must repeal this proposed rule and implement solutions that align with our values and protect human life.”

“President Biden ran for and won the presidency by pledging to turn the page on the cruelty and chaos of the Trump era and ‘restore the soul of America,’” said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “It’s hard to reconcile those promises with the details of the proposed asylum ban. It’s a policy eerily reminiscent of the Trump/Stephen Miller approach and a willful break from some of our proudest traditions as a nation. Just because this news had been anticipated doesn’t make it any less devastating. We should be finding ways to fix and fully resource our asylum process, not devising ways to prevent people seeking safety from accessing the asylum process under our laws.” 

“It is simply unconscionable that President Biden would revive a Trump-era rule that would ban most asylum seekers from being able to apply for protection in the United States,” said Laurie Bell Cooper, U.S. Legal Services Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “Instead of reversing the previous administration’s cruel attacks on the immigration system, the Biden administration is now leading its own shameful assault on migrants seeking safety. This asylum ban was illegal when the Trump administration proposed it and it is illegal now. President Biden should restore full access to the asylum system immediately.”

“When the Biden administration announces policies that violate international law, it sets the tone for all countries in the region,” said Gretchen Kuhner, Director of the Institute for Women in Migration (Mexico City). “These types of rules are cynical and cause confusion for the thousands of people fleeing violence and trying to seek protection in the United States, particularly the most vulnerable women and children who have no way to travel other than walking. If they could obtain visas, they would.”

“Let’s not sugar coat this—we are horrified by this updated version of President Trump’s transit ban. New parole programs are no replacement for a functioning asylum system,” Kimiko Hirota, policy advisor of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC). “The Biden administration is cherry-picking winners and losers based on who has access to things like passports, U.S. sponsors, and the means to fly into the U.S. Many asylum seekers flee their homes with just the clothes on their back and a phone in their hand, making them ineligible for these parole pathways. A transit ban will harm thousands of people desperate to seek protection in the United States.” 

“The Biden administration’s proposed rule would send asylum seekers back to danger, separate families, and cost lives, as human rights advocates have been asserting for weeks,” said Jane Bentrott, Counsel at Justice Action Center. “In addition to violating international treaties and domestic law, the proposed asylum ban is a clear regression back to cruel and unlawful Trump-era policies and capitulation to anti-immigrant politicians. The administration must stop all plans to implement this shameful rule.”

“The Florence Project condemns the Biden administration’s decision to move forward with a ban on asylum for those who travel through any other country before seeking safety in the United States. While expected, the announcement of a third country transit ban is devastating,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “Seeking asylum is a human right, and it is a legal right protected by domestic and international law. Yet, under this ban, most people fleeing violence in Western Hemisphere countries would be forced to apply for asylum in countries where their lives may still be in danger, while they await decisions from slow-moving, dysfunctional asylum systems that ultimately offer only a fraction of the protection that they need. Bans on asylum like this one, no matter which administration enacts them, are dangerous and even deadly. The bottom line is that this policy will put people in direct and immediate danger.”

“This proposed rule barring vulnerable migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. is exactly the kind of dangerous policy that President Biden claimed to want to end during his election campaign,” said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Refugee Congress Executive Director. “Despite what the administration has stated recently, this is in fact an updated Trump-era policy that has been struck down by courts more than once. We are deeply troubled by the administration’s continued support of harmful, deterrence-based policies.”

“We are deeply disturbed by news that a version of the Trump administration’s asylum transit ban is proposed to be reinstated. Alongside our faith partners, we have repeatedly urged the Biden administration to put an end to punitive, deterrence-based policies at the border that have caused irreparable damage, trauma, and loss of life over the past several years, under both the former and current administrations. By barring certain arrivals from accessing asylum, this ban sets a dangerous precedent that does not treat safety and asylum as a basic human right, but a privilege afforded to some and not others. We have seen the harm that policies like this have done to the lives, safety, and stability of asylum seekers. We have watched as they wreak havoc on the lives of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children,” said Danilo Zak, Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy at CWS. “It is long past time for the Biden administration to keep its promise and protect the lives and rights of all those seeking safety. The administration should expand its reliance on permanent protections, including both the U.S. resettlement and asylum programs, and invest in the communities who welcome our new neighbors. The continued refusal to respect the humanity of the most vulnerable undermines American values, and must come to an end.”




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: