FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 2, 2023
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WASHINGTON – Immigration and asylum experts outlined a series of real solutions the administration, Congress, and state and local governments should implement today to restore the legal right to asylum. Listen to the recording here.
Under both Presidents Trump and Biden, “deterring” people from seeking safety has been the goal, not facilitating safe and fair access to asylum.
“If President Biden doesn’t want his legacy to be ending our life-saving asylum system, he must reject right-wing fear-mongering that prioritizes cruelty towards people seeking asylum, and implement actual solutions that uphold our ideals,” said Bilal Askaryar, Interim Campaign Manager of #WelcomeWithDignity. “#WelcomeWithDignity has compiled a full suite of short- and long-term recommendations for federal, state, and local agencies to welcome people with dignity and to address the root causes of forced migration. Will President Biden continue trying to stop people from seeking asylum at our border, in a futile attempt to appease xenophobes, or work with the experts who have real solutions and welcome people with dignity? The choice is his.”
Heidi Altman, Director of Policy with the National Immigrant Justice Center, said: “To address a situation that fundamentally requires a humanitarian response, the Biden administration is continuing to use punitive policy measures. Humane solutions are available if the administration chooses to commit to them. Funding for civil society, robust communication and planning, and humanitarian reception are key. These solutions will work if built around respect for the right to asylum.”
Abdoul Mbow of Cincinnati, Ohio came to the United States from Mauritania in 1998. Back then, the asylum process was more straightforward. He was able to apply, get his work permit, and be approved for asylum in just a few months. Today “it takes too long to get approved,” said Mbow. “People are coming from Mauritania through South America. I’ve met men who have traveled two years to get there. Now [asylum] is getting hard and taking too long. That’s not the way.”
He spoke about three Mauritanian men who were trapped in Mexico under the current border policy and extorted by the cartels. Even they are having a hard time getting asylum after all they’ve been through. “We need things to be easier. I am the lucky one,” Mbow said.
Theodore A. Moore, Vice-President of Policy & Programs with the New York Immigration Coalition, said “The United States is facing a pivotal moment in its long history of welcoming newcomers. Secretary Mayorkas must direct USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security to extend ‘parole’ for asylum-seekers and facilitate expedited work permits for individuals, all while expeditiously processing asylum seeker and humanitarian parole work permits and renewals in the backlog of applications. The chance to be self-sufficient and to provide for their families, both here and in their home countries, is crucial to individuals’ ability to resettle and integrate themselves fully.”
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Policy Director with the American Immigration Council, said: “Since 2014, the United States has experienced several successive periods of high humanitarian migration, each time met with aggressive deterrence. What these experiences have shown is not only that deterrence-based programs are inhumane and ineffective in achieving long-term reductions in migration, but also that the situation at our southern border is driven more by humanitarian crises abroad than U.S. domestic policy. A functioning humanitarian protection system, not deterrence, is the appropriate response to people seeking asylum.”
“The last thing that the Biden administration or members of Congress should be doing is advancing the former Trump administration’s agenda, or attempting to replace one failed, illegal, and inhumane Trump policy with another,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “There is a more humane, effective and legal way forward. The Biden administration should redouble efforts to support refugee reception capacities in other countries in the Americas, step up regional refugee resettlement, improve its parole initiatives, abandon the misguided pursuit of an asylum ban or similar policies that deny refugees asylum, restore prompt and effective access to asylum at ports of entry, upgrade and properly staff asylum adjudication systems, and stand firm against both fear-mongering rhetoric and proposals that deny refugees asylum in the United States.”
Anti-immigrant attorneys general and governors and their allies in Congress are spreading lies about the legal right to seek asylum, using lawsuits and House hearings as political tools. The Biden administration’s approach is to combine asylum bans and rushed asylum eligibility screenings—which will undoubtedly fail to identify people in need—with a highly limited legal entry program that most people can never access.
Meanwhile, communities around the country are leading the way, showing politicians what it looks like to be a welcoming society. They are showing there are far better ways to deal with this situation.
Read “Real Solutions, Not An End to Asylum” from partners in the #WelcomeWIthDignity Campaign at https://welcomewithdignity.org/solutions/ and “‘We are people. We are not ghosts.’ Migrants ‘dying’ to live” by Abdoul Mbow.
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