WASHINGTON – In a press call today, faith leaders announced the delivery of a letter to President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, denouncing their plans to create a new asylum ban through the federal rulemaking process. The press conference speakers and letter signatories urged the Biden administration to commit to restoring and fully resourcing the U.S. asylum system.
The letter was signed by 165 faith-based organizations and announced in CQ Roll Call. A recording of the press conference is available here.
“HIAS is over 100 years old—more than old enough to remember 1939, when the United States had no asylum laws, when the Roosevelt administration refused to allow the SS St. Louis to dock—in spite of the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that it held over 900 Jewish passengers who were fleeing Nazi Germany,” said Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS. “The United States turned the ship back to Europe, and 254 of its passengers perished in the Holocaust. Asserting that never again would people be trapped inside their country of persecution, the international community established—and the United States ratified—the Refugee Convention. The U.S. now has asylum laws, but the Biden transit ban will literally place those laws out of reach. This is illegal and immoral. We urge the administration and Congress to resource the asylum system to make timely and fair decisions, rather than to relegate asylum as a right that can be neither accessed nor exercised.”
“This country has the moral imperative and the resources to welcome immigrants with open arms,” said Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee. “Instead we see asylum bans, more funding for militarizing our borders, and more funding for detention and deportation. Concrete and razor wire, armed agents and prison cells only cause further harm. Instead, we need to invest in programs that benefit everyone in the U.S.—citizens and new arrivals alike. We are calling on the Biden administration and Congress to do everything in their power to reverse course on these harmful and deadly policies.”
“We at the Kino Border Initiative have seen the deadly consequences when families seeking protection face more barriers at our U.S.-Mexico border,” said Sister Tracey Horan, SP, Associate Director of Education and Advocacy, Kino Border Initiative. “Just last week, we received a group of Cubans at our migrant center who faced threats, robbery, and extortion at the hands of Mexican officials. Despite these abuses, the proposed asylum travel ban would require people like them to seek protection in Mexico before coming to the U.S. to do so. We hope that President Biden, himself a Catholic, will discern his actions in light of Catholic teachings and choose paths to welcome over barriers, like his proposed travel ban, that exclude families seeking safety.”
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said: “Managing migration humanely means addressing drivers of displacement and working with regional partners to share responsibility. But it also means the U.S. must lead by the power of its example. Draconian restrictions to limit the legal right to seek asylum are a short-term deterrent, but robust legal pathways will ultimately ease strain on the asylum system well into the future. The path forward should include equitable asylum access, humanitarian parole programs, efficient refugee program processing, and increased labor visas, if we’re going to meet the moral obligations and economic needs of this nation.”
The letter to the Biden administration states:
We write with grave concern about the forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will set in motion an asylum ban in the form of a rule that bars people from asylum if they enter without inspection or do not seek protection in countries of transit. While we recognize your announcement included an action to expand limited pathways to Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans for humanitarian reasons, the parole process is not an equivalent substitute for access to asylum—nor should it ever be coupled with an expansion of harmful anti-asylum policies like Title 42. The United States has a long history of providing safety for those fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands. We urge you to not issue the proposed NPRM and to instead work vigorously across your administration to ensure that people seeking safety have access to a fair, dignified and efficient asylum process.
Read the complete letter and list of signatories here.
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
The Interfaith Immigration Coalition is made up of over 55 national, faith-based organizations brought together across many theological traditions with a common call to seek just policies that lift up the God-given dignity of every individual. In partnership, we work to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of all refugees and migrants. Follow us on Twitter @interfaithimm