FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 2, 2023
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People Seeking Asylum Should Be Welcomed With Dignity, Not Troops
WASHINGTON – The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights is deeply concerned by reports that the Biden administration is sending 1,500 active-duty troops to the U.S. border with Mexico. People exercising their legal and human right to seek asylum should be welcomed with dignity, not troops. While the end of Title 42 may create a temporary increase in the number of people seeking protection in the United States, as is their legal and human right, the challenge is a humanitarian one, not a military problem.
“The administration has had months to prepare for a return to normal asylum processing when Title 42 ends,” said Bilal Askaryar, Interim Campaign Manager of #WelcomeWithDignity. “Instead of sending U.S. troops to intimidate people seeking safety and attempt to satisfy his critics, President Biden should send funding to local communities eager to welcome their new neighbors.”
“We are appalled that the Biden administration would meet vulnerable families and asylum seekers with the deployment of active military,” said Quixote Center Executive Director Dr. Kim Lamberty. “The United States can and must act swiftly to increase capacity for asylum processing and community welcoming, and stop placing limits on the human right to seek safety in this country.”
“CARECEN SF is concerned that Department of Defense troops will be used for ‘ground-based detection and monitoring,’” said Sarah Gavigan, Senior Staff Immigration Attorney at The Central American Resource Center of Northern CA (CARECEN SF). “Resources should be focused on humanitarian response needs only and not on removal efforts of any kind. We can and should focus on a humane, trauma-informed response to welcome survivors to the U.S., many of whom the U.S. government has needlessly made to wait in Mexico for months in dangerous conditions. Now is the time to rise to the occasion and welcome with dignity.”
“People seeking safety should be met with compassion and care, not with a show of intimidation. We have serious concerns with the reference to U.S. troops being deployed for ‘detection and monitoring.’ These words offer no transparency in an already tense situation. The administration has had more than a year to prepare for the end of Title 42 and a return to regular processing at the border. During that time, border advocates have repeatedly stressed that what we need is coordination and funds to help us safely greet asylum seekers as they enter our communities,” said Jennifer Babaie, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. “Once again we are witnessing the Administration’s refusal to offer concrete solutions in favor of deterrence measures, completely distorting any meaningful access to safety for the families who are crossing. We’ve seen this before and we know this will only subject migrants to more risk. Militarization and law enforcement are not the answer—meaningful access to humanitarian protection is.”
“Border militarization not only harms asylum seekers, but also diverts crucial resources that could instead be invested in creating better systems, long lasting solutions, and safety for all,” said Joan Agoh, Communications Coordinator at Justice Action Center. “Similar operations under Obama in 2010 and Bush in 2006 cost a combined $1.3 billion and further traumatized people already fleeing danger. The energy and resources put towards these political stunts should instead be directed towards building more holistic welcoming apparatuses that honor freedom of movement and address root causes of migration, like climate change.”
“Rather than sending 1,500 non-enforcement troops to the border, the Biden administration must restore the right to asylum and prioritize addressing the factors causing people to flee to the U.S., such as the growing authoritarian governments in Central America, endemic corruption, an exclusive economic model, and poverty. Until these are addressed, people will continue to look for a better way of life. A military solution is not the answer,” said Vicki Gass, Executive Director of LAWG.
“The Biden administration has had months to prepare for the ending of Title 42 and live up to the promise it made to create a more humane immigration system,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project. “But the further militarization of our border will only manufacture the same chaos and violence the Administration claims to be working against. We call on the Administration to correct its course and ensure our country welcomes people with dignity, not troops.”
“Survivors of gender-based violence and others fleeing deadly persecution must be met with compassion and care, not a militarized border designed to deny justice rather than offer safety to those who need it most,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “Our joint report with Oxfam America, Surviving Deterrence: How U.S. Asylum Deterrence Policies Normalize Gender Based Violence, offers alternative solutions to create a system that is humane and actively centers the legal rights and dignity of asylum seekers and migrants. Sending 1,500 troops to the border in response to Title 42 ending, whether they are directly engaged in enforcement or not, is not the right answer.”
“Sending troops to the border sends the wrong message. The Biden administration is playing into the hands of anti-immigrant zealots who are attempting to politicize and demonize the processing of asylum seekers at the border,” said Laurie Ball Cooper, U.S. Legal Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “The government should be surging humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers and border communities, not the military.”
“It is deplorable that the Biden administration wants to further militarize the border instead of supporting humane and orderly processes at our southern border,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “Faith and secular reception organizations have been doing the heavy lifting of ensuring that people who come to our border are safe and can access due process. However, instead of lifting up, supporting, and working with these organizations as partners, the Biden administration plans to send 1,500 troops to the border, sending the message that asylum seekers are a threat. While these troops might not be doing enforcement, simply seeing people in military uniform is traumatizing for both the asylum seekers and border communities.”
“The Biden administration’s plans to temporarily deploy troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is concerning as the end of Title 42 approaches,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “The Administration should ensure that the troops do not pose a threat to those seeking refuge and that the safety and rights of migrants and asylum seekers are prioritized.”
“People fleeing persecution have a right to seek asylum and should be welcomed with dignity and compassion,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The Biden administration has had over two years to prepare for a return to normal asylum processing at the southern border. As we approach the long overdue end of Title 42, we are dismayed to see the administration revert to policies that fail to treat asylum seekers as human beings in need of protection.”
“The Biden administration has had nearly two years to prepare for the end of Title 42,” said Mary Miller Flowers, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “Instead of sending troops to the border, the Biden administration should be prepared to provide children and families seeking protection with the humanitarian support they deserve, and ensure that NGOs and communities on the ground have access to the resources to be able to receive them.”
“We call on this administration to halt the militarization of the border and the inhumane detention of migrants,” added Rev. Noel Andersen, National Field Director for Church World Service. “We cannot allow reactionary politics and fear-mongering to impact our hallowed tradition of welcome. Claiming asylum is a human right; sending troops to the border sends the wrong message. We have a moral obligation to welcome families in need of safe refuge.”
Read about real solutions from asylum experts here.
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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: welcomewithdignity.org