Press Release


Press contact: | 646-899-9722

Experts: Biden Administration’s Latest Asylum Ban is a Death Sentence

WASHINGTON – In a court filing yesterday, the Biden administration reiterated its plan to issue a proposed rule that will block most people from seeking asylum at a U.S. border, as well as its intention to rush through the required “notice and comment” period. #WelcomeWithDignity campaign partners are outraged. 

***See this booking memo to interview experts***

“An asylum ban on most people who transited through a third country to reach the United States is a death sentence for the poor, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, African, and other communities who don’t have the luxury of buying a direct ticket to the United States,” said Bilal Askaryar, Interim Campaign Manager of the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights. “Asylum-seeking refugees deserve the same access to protection regardless of how they arrive or where they transited through. President Biden must reverse course immediately.”

The Biden administration’s transit ban is not only unlawful but depraved, preventing those in need of asylum from obtaining protection in the United States. The Biden administration is orchestrating an inequitable system favoring wealthy refugees who can travel to the United States by air over those who are forced to risk their lives on treacherous land journeys to our southern border. A humane asylum system must adhere to the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of refugees to any country where their lives or freedom would be threatened,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “In last night’s State of the Union address, President Biden once again invoked the principle that the United States must always be a beacon of humanity for the rest of the world. Yet here we are, the very next day, with his administration moving to deny asylees the right to lawfully seek protection. This is cruel and heartless and stains our nation’s reputation.”

“The inhumanity demonstrated by the Biden administration and Congress in violation of U.S. asylum law is despicable.” said Geronimo Ramirez, (Maya Ixil), Community Organizer with the International Mayan League. “An asylum transit ban will leave thousands of vulnerable lives at heightened risk of kidnappings, torture, extortion, and murder. For Indigenous Peoples, girls, women, and LGBTQ2S+, these policies are particularly detrimental. The Biden administration must uphold our human right to seek asylum, right to life and security. We are fleeing state sponsored persecution often in connection with private sector theft of our lands, territories, and natural goods.” 

“Congress specifically wrote our laws to ensure that everyone–regardless of nationality, race or manner of entry–has a fair chance to seek safety in the U.S. The Biden administration must put the rights and dignity of asylum seekers first by finally getting rid of Trump-era bans, not resurrecting them,” said Kimiko Hirota, policy advisor of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “The courts already found that the previous transit ban violated U.S. asylum laws, including because supposed ‘safe’ transit countries like Mexico are in fact not safe for many migrants and people seeking asylum. Tragically, we know that thousands of asylum seekers have experienced violent assault, rape, and other attacks in Mexico. It is imperative that the Biden administration upholds the law and ensures that no one is returned back to places where they face persecution or torture.”  

“We are outraged that the Biden administration is poised to resurrect a version of Trump’s transit ban, an illegal policy that places people seeking asylum directly in harm’s way,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “In a brief filed to the Supreme Court yesterday, the government declared its intent to rush the policy into effect before May 11, which would almost certainly preclude the administration from seriously considering public input during the statutorily required notice and comment period. The White House will no doubt attempt to repackage their policy as distinguishable from Trump’s, which was repeatedly struck down by the courts. But a ban is a ban. Once again, President Biden is reverting to the Trump playbook in an attempt to gain political points and leaving people seeking asylum in the lurch. We urge the administration to reverse course and shelve the planned transit rule.”

“The Biden administration’s updated version of Trump’s asylum transit ban is completely unacceptable. Measures of this kind constitute and promote serious violations of U.S. and international law,” said Camilo Perez-Bustillo, on behalf of Witness at the Border and the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild. “Mexico is not safe for Mexican citizens thanks to the drug war imposed by U.S. policies, which is one of the root causes of ongoing processes of forced displacement and migration there and regionally. Mexico is even more dangerous for migrants in transit. The vulnerability of migrants in Mexico has been further reinforced by the increasing complicity between U.S. and Mexican authorities in the negation and erosion of the right to seek asylum on both sides of the border. These are international crimes that we must denounce and resist.”

“We are deeply disturbed by news that a version of the Trump administration’s asylum transit ban is to be reinstated. Alongside our faith partners, we have repeatedly urged the Biden administration to put an end to punitive, deterrence-based policies that have caused irreparable damage, trauma, and loss of life over the past several years, under both the former and current administrations. 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 Meredith Owen, 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 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.” 

“Our clients have been kidnapped, raped, and violently assaulted in countries like Mexico that have been designated as ‘safe’ for purposes of the transit ban,” said Priscilla Orta, Supervising Attorney of Project Corazon at Lawyers for Good Government. “We strongly condemn the actions of the Biden Administration in taking steps to resurrect this cruel asylum rule, a policy that illegally and dangerously bans refugees from seeking asylum in the U.S. if they did not seek asylum while traveling through supposedly ‘safe’ transit countries on their journeys to the border. Subjecting refugees, particularly ones who are at heightened risk of harm due to their gender, sexuality, race, or language, to this policy will cause trauma and death. We urge the administration to instead uphold the law and our international obligations to allow people fleeing danger to seek shelter within our borders.”

Said Dr. Kate Sugarman, MD, with Doctors for Camp Closure: “We support the humane treatment of immigrants and people seeking asylum. Keeping people stranded in dangerous conditions on the other side of the border is in nobody’s best interests. We should be treating people the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes.”

From Rainbow Beginnings: “Forcing LGBTQ asylum seekers to remain in unsafe communities outside of the U.S. further harms people seeking safety. Rainbow Beginnings is opposed to continuing this policy.”

“It is shameful that this administration would revive a cruel policy that courts previously found to be illegal under the past administration,” said Quixote Center Executive Director Dr. Kim Lamberty. “We commend the Biden administration for expanding legal pathways, but both the humanitarian parole program and CBP One exclude the most vulnerable migrants, people who are most in need of protection. President Biden has stated repeatedly that he supports a fair and orderly asylum system; if that truly is the case, we urge his administration to reverse its decision, and work toward creating a just asylum system that welcomes all people fleeing from danger.”

“We are disappointed to hear that the Biden administration is still committed to putting in place an inhumane asylum transit ban,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director, Hope Border Institute. “As a border community, we urge the administration to make good on its commitment to restoring asylum protection to all those seeking safety and to no longer rely upon cruel policies that will continue to place vulnerable individuals at risk of harm. Policy proposals such as this transit ban continue to move us farther away from a humane, compassionate, and safe immigration system, but we know such a world is possible.”

“It is outrageous that the Biden administration has proposed reviving a Trump-era asylum ban that would block most asylum seekers from being able to apply for protection in the United States. President Biden ran on getting rid of Trump’s cruel policies, not embracing them,” said Laurie Ball Cooper, U.S. Legal Services Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “This policy was illegal when the Trump administration proposed it and it is illegal now. President Biden should restore full access to the asylum system immediately.”

“U.S. law clearly states that all who arrive on United States soil and petition for protection here deserve to have their plea considered, with due process,” said Adam Isacson, Director for Defense Oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “The Trump administration sought to water down this fundamental humanitarian standard, only to lose in the courts. It is devastating to see the Biden administration—which began its term in office determined to restore asylum—now determined to go down the same path. This rule must not stand.”

“The Biden administration has chosen fear over hope at our southern border by criminalizing and preventing the most vulnerable and persecuted communities from seeking asylum. As people of faith, we condemn this action and hope that God will open the hearts of policy makers to see asylum seekers as human beings and not threats,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “In court filings yesterday, the administration said, ‘The proposed rule would adopt a presumption against asylum eligibility,’ which means even before one could present one’s case, an asylum seeker would be deemed ineligible for asylum, simply because of the manner of arrival. This is against the law and is contrary to our values to love and treat others as ourselves.”

“Once more, the writing is on the wall: the Biden administration is rapidly repurposing Trump policies and exploiting the rulemaking process with a clear end in mind—the summary removal of asylum seekers after Title 42 ends,” said Azadeh Erfani, senior policy analyst for the National Immigrant Justice Center. “In blatant violation of domestic and international law, they actively pursue policies that will inevitably yield death and suffering for Black, Brown, and Indigenous asylum seekers.” 

“The Biden administration’s decision to pursue a policy that advances the agenda of the Trump administration and anti-immigrant hate groups is a horrible humanitarian, legal, and political mistake,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “Americans support the right to seek asylum, but this policy will deny refugees asylum, turn many away to danger, and separate others from their families. The anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) praised the Biden administration’s announcement of an asylum ban. On the heels of two congressional hearings riddled with extremist rhetoric, the last thing the Biden administration should be doing is playing into the hands of the perpetrators of anti-immigrant fear-mongering.”

“Parents and children who seek asylum in our country are fleeing horrific violence and persecution,” said Claudia Tristán, Immigration Campaign Director of MomsRising. “Resurrecting Trump-era asylum policies subjects already vulnerable families to even more danger. The use of a transit ban will undoubtedly put countless lives at risk and create cruel, racist and economic barriers to the asylum process. We need President Biden to defend the right to seek asylum, lead with strength, and help our nation once again be a beacon of hope and safety. The Biden administration must commit to a just and humane asylum system. America’s moms want every asylum-seeker to be treated with dignity, compassion, and respect.”

“We are deeply disappointed that the Biden administration appears poised to ignore numerous advocates and members of Congress in exchange for resurrecting a version of Trump’s transit ban, an illegal and harmful policy that placed people seeking asylum directly in harm’s way,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights. “For 40 years, The Advocates has seen that we are not only capable of, but are made stronger by, protecting people from persecution. Both U.S. and international law have been clear—it is illegal for the U.S. to place barriers on the right to seek asylum from persecution. Rather than enact this illegal transit ban, we urge President Biden to instead reverse course and adopt proven, effective policies informed by international best practices and human rights standards that provide safe, orderly, and fair pathways to move with dignity.”

“We are disappointed to see the Administration moving forward in this direction,” said Rachel Sheridan, Senior Litigation Counsel of the Tahirih Justice Center. “It has repeatedly promised to promote a fair and humane asylum system, yet it continues to opt for policies that slam doors shut to survivors of violence and persecution instead of providing a bridge to safety.”


See: fact sheet and resources from Human Rights First; organizational sign-on letter.



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: