Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 28, 2023

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 Lead Immigration Advocates Give Tangible Solutions to Key Issues
Four Organizations Across the Nation Discuss Reception of People Seeking Asylum

Washington, D.C.The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights and its over 100 nationwide partners are calling on the Biden administration to stop the asylum ban and inhumane practices – including open-air detention sites and family separations – and take action now to welcome asylum seekers into the U.S. with dignity. This conversation was led by experts from four leading nonprofits; Al Otro Lado, The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Women’s Refugee Commission.

“The entire country is contending with a deliberately weakened asylum system ill-equipped to welcome large asylum-seeking populations,” said #WelcomewithDignity Campaign Manager Melina Roche, who moderated the press conference. “The federal and local governments can make changes to infrastructure, coordination and communication to affect real change on the ground. We need to listen to those doing the work and put their recommendations into action immediately.” 

In the virtual event today, speakers identified key areas for tangible solutions. Each appealed for the need for a compassionate asylum system that keeps families together and safe during processing and as they navigate their immigration cases beyond the border in their final destination cities. 

National Immigrant Justice Center Senior Policy Analyst Azadeh Erfani reminded everyone that today’s border policies violate domestic and international obligations and contribute to the unprecedented mass displacement the world is witnessing now. She provided an overview of key issues endangering asylum seekers today, including expedited fear screenings, anti-asylum programs propagated by Trump and Biden, and the most recent asylum ban.

Detailing what is happening at different Ports of Entry, The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project’s Managing Attorney of the Border Action Team Chelsea Sachau, Esq.  said the infrastructure at Ports of Entry needs a major overhaul, including greater access to asylum. 

“We are currently seeing regular issues with the CBP One app and Mexican entities blocking access to asylum. These are unnecessary obstacles that can be fixed now. We must drastically scale up the U.S. immigration infrastructure’s ability to receive, process and welcome asylum seekers, as well as adjudicate their asylum cases,” said Sachau, in reference to her team’s work in Arizona. “The Florence Project calls upon the federal government to robustly invest in long-term refugee and asylee processing infrastructure at all levels: at all ports of entry, within transportation systems, short-term and long-term shelters, legal services, social services, and the U.S. immigration courts. People will always look to the U.S. for safety and refuge. This cannot be the system that they’re met with.”

Al Otro Lado Executive Director Erika Pinheiro shared that since September, the U.S. Border Patrol has implemented daily releases of hundreds of migrants onto the streets of San Diego. Her organization has helped reunite 105 families that have been separated, and documented hundreds more that remain apart. 

“It has been very frustrating because Border Patrol has refused to provide us any information on the whereabouts of missing family members including when we enter an appearance as their attorney. There has been a significant number of individuals being separated from their families and sent to ICE detention facilities as far away as Louisiana or Texas,” said Pinheiro. “This is largely the result of state funding cuts to respite shelters on the San Diego border, and the state should immediately reinstate those dollars so that we can end the practice of street releases and reduce the chaos and family separation that we’re currently seeing here.”

Some of these family separations, as well as many other inhumane atrocities have occurred at U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s open-air detention sites, such as in Jacumba, an unincorporated portion of San Diego. Pinheiro advocated for timely processing and a local investment in sustainable welcoming infrastructure in San Diego to make a substantial impact. These findings are also supported by the new Women’s Refugee Commission report: “People Seeking Asylum Confined Outside in Appalling Conditions: Findings and Recommendations from a Monitoring Visit to San Diego.”

Most asylum seekers, however, do not remain in the border cities they enter through, but instead travel on to loved ones throughout the U.S. Discussing this topic, Women’s Refugee Commission Director of Migrants Rights and Justice Katharina previewed the findings of the upcoming report on interior reception of asylum seekers in four cities — Portland, Maine; New York City; Chicago;  and Denver — due to be released this Thursday. A brief on the first two cities is currently available.

Obser noted that common challenges faced by asylum seekers in these cities include a lack of access to permanent housing and assistance navigating the asylum process. And, organizations providing critical services need more support and engagement. In order to turn things around, she recommended community-led case management services, innovative legal assistance models and private-public partnerships that must work in concert to address long-term support needs. She added, “We have a real opportunity to pivot from a crisis mode to one of solutions and opportunity, but need sustainable investment and coordination.”

As Erfani points out, “There is no ‘wrong’ way to seek asylum. However or wherever someone crosses, whether or not they have access to a smartphone or are able to navigate a dysfunctional app, people have the right to seek protection.” And if the solutions shared by the panelists are implemented, this fundamental right can be recognized with dignity for all. 

Virtual Press Kit, including press conference video:



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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: