Washington – Last evening, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would begin using a process of rapid deportations known as “expedited removal” for certain families arriving at the border. Today, the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign responded with deep concern about the administration’s decision to embrace a deterrence-based policy that frequently leads to the unlawful deportation of people seeking asylum, who are often denied the chance to request protection by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. The policy will needlessly subject families to abusive treatment and inhumane conditions in CBP detention cells as the government seeks to deport them. The campaign also expressed deep disappointment given that member organizations sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this year urging DHS to reject the use of expedited removal.
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Biden administration should be fighting to uphold the universal human right to seek protection, not undermining it. Members of the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign responded:
“Today’s announcement from the Biden White House on expedited removal continues to hold up the xenophobia of President Trump and Stephen Miller,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, Co-Founder of Families Belong Together. “This policy is a fast track to deport children and families to the very danger they were fleeing and puts lives at risk. The Biden administration promised to restore the U.S. commitment to a fair, humane, and functional immigration system, but they are leveraging the complicated and broken immigration system with one goal: expelling those in need to score political points. You can’t build back better if you’re using a foundation laid by white supremacists.”
“The announcement from the White House today on the changes to asylum processing is a devastating blow to ASAP’s members – and all asylum seekers,” said Conchita Cruz, Co-Executive Director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). “Singling out the Northern Triangle countries is overtly discriminatory and expediting deportations without a meaningful chance for people to seek protection is fundamentally unjust and unfair. We will not stand by as this administration eviscerates the legal right to seek asylum, and obliterates due process.”
“The Biden Administration’s decision to embrace a system that will fast track the deportation of people including children to the very danger they were forced to flee could be a death sentence for most asylum seekers. Black migrants from the Caribbean and Africa are too often being denied the very chance to state their fear due to antiblack racism that is deeply ingrained within the immigration system,” said Guerline Jozef, Co-founder and executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance “Asylum seekers from countries such as Haiti that is experiencing one of the most devastating political turmoil in recent history, People fleeing arm conflicts in Cameroon and people escaping slavery in Mauritania can not be deported, instead the Biden administration should work to provide a fair, humane system Stop the use of Title 42 and provide protection for the most vulnerable and welcome asylum seekers with dignity. Build Back Better requires that we stop using languages and policies that are rooted in the same cruel and inhumane policies and tactics used by the previous administration.”
“Study after study – including a Congressionally authorized one that I directed for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom – – has documented that the expedited removal process puts asylum seekers at risk – at risk of return to physical harm, and at risk of mental harm while detained in prison-like conditions,” said Mark Hetfield, CEO and President of HIAS. “Study after study has also documented that what few safeguards are in place to protect asylum seekers are often disregarded by CBP officers, putting asylum seekers at further risk or peril of abuse and return. We are distressed that the Biden Administration is saying it will expand expedited removal to families first, and then try to fix it later.”
“Expedited removal has proven to be a due process and human rights nightmare throughout its history. The Biden administration should not subject children and their parents, or other asylum seekers to this summary deportation process,” said Robyn Barnard, senior advocacy counsel for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “The process of expedited removal is fundamentally flawed and will likely lead to an increase of families in detention and the return of refugees to persecution. Instead of turning to failed policies, the Biden administration should invest in proven community-based support programs and legal representation for asylum seekers, and in creating a humane system to welcome those who arrive at our border seeking protection.”
“Refugees fleeing for their lives deserve better than Trump-lite immigration policies,” said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead for Oxfam America. “Once again, the Biden administration is demonstrating that it is more concerned with political optics than with actually upholding its moral and legal obligations to protect people fleeing violence, torture, and persecution. By implementing expedited removal, the administration will be sending children and their families on a fast-track back to the perilous conditions they fled without a transparent judicial process. It has been six months: President Biden has no excuse for his continued and shameful embrace of the same old racist and xenophobic tactics of previous administrations.”
“Seeking asylum is a right under the laws of the United States and our central commitment in the 1951 Convention. The Biden administration should not implement policies, like this new expansion of expedited removal, which will result in returning people to danger,” said Luis Guerra, Strategic Capacity Officer with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable people and families in the world. If the Biden administration wants people to seek asylum at ports of entry, it must transform those spaces–which have been full of confrontation, violence, and fear—into ones that are accessible, functional, and welcoming. CLINIC urges the Biden administration to immediately reverse the expansion of expedited removal, stop expelling people under Title 42 and create policies that uphold our obligations under the law and to each other, as human beings.”
“Expedited removal is a cruel tactic which, in addition to being an ineffective method of determining asylum eligibility, disproportionately harms children and women going through the US immigration system,” said Jonathan Goldman, Executive Director of the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice. “With the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) estimating that at least 15% of people fail to be properly screened for fear or record fear, the Biden Administration’s decision to use and embrace expedited removal will result in people being forced into imminent danger. No one should be ‘expedited’ back into a situation they fled. We should be focusing on developing pathways for status, not reinforcing xenophobic and sexist systems that cause suffering.”
“Expedited removal was designed to bring migration from Black, Brown, and Indigenous people to a stand-still, at the expense of due process and the right to asylum, said Azadeh Erfani, Senior Policy Analyst of the National Immigrant Justice Center. There is no justification for returning to this policy and trusting the same failed institutions to screen, detain, and deport vulnerable people. Building a humane immigration and asylum system is incompatible with summary deportations, which inflict irreparable harm.”
“The revival of expedited removal is a harmful return to policies that deprive people of their legal right to seek asylum,” said Denise Bell, Researcher for Refugee & Migrant Rights at Amnesty International USA. “This administration promised progress. Instead, under the guise of efficiency, it has opened the door to reviving dangerous practices that send families seeking safety back into harm’s way. Let’s not forget: this is also a human right the government is restricting access to. What’s astonishing is a seeming lack of compassion – a traumatized parent is expected to articulate a claim of fear to a uniformed stranger in a holding facility under added pressure from an accelerated timeframe. This is not how we build back a fair and humane system. It’s how we undermine our collective humanity.”
“President Biden promised during his presidential campaign that he would increase the refugee admissions over time to try to undo the damage of the previous administration,” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez, Climate Justice Policy Strategist for International Mayan League. “Yet he continues to decrease that number and the probability of being granted refugee and asylum in the U.S. with more strict protocols. This is severely jeopardizing the livelihoods and wellbeing of those seeking asylum in this country who are primarily transnational Black and Indigenous people from Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, etc.”
“The Biden administration’s decision to subject any families to expedited removal will place people seeking safety at risk of deportation to the very dangers they have fled,” said Kate Jastram, Policy and Advocacy Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “Expedited removal is a fundamentally flawed system that subverts due process, sacrificing refugee protection in the name of speed. It is particularly offensive that DHS chastised and threatened punitive measures against those forced to seek safety away from official border entry points. As the administration knows there is no ‘wrong way’ to claim asylum, and their draconian policies, including the egregious Title 42 border closure, have left many desperate families with no other safe option.”
“We are deeply disappointed that the administration is doubling down on expedited removal, which has always been an assault on due process and protections that will harm thousands of immigrant survivors,” said Rachel Sheridan, Litigation Counsel at Tahirih Justice Center. “Because of this policy, women seeking protection from domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, and other forms of gender-based harm could be deported without having the chance to prove their case for asylum. The trauma that survivors have endured, when combined with agents who are inadequately trained to properly conduct asylum interviews, will inevitably result in some survivors being wrongfully returned to harmful conditions. If this Administration truly wants to build a humane and just asylum process that protects survivors, the expedited removal policy should be ended, not ‘improved’.”
“After four years of Trump and Miller, we must work overtime to establish a fair, transparent and accurate asylum system because it is a matter of life and death for the individuals seeking asylum,” said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “Expedited removal as it has traditionally been implemented undercuts the ability of families and individuals fleeing harm to have a full and fair chance to access their right to ask for asylum under our laws. Shortcuts to justice usually shortchange justice, so this is very concerning.”
“President Biden promised to ‘reform our long-broken and chaotic immigration system,” said Daniel Tully, counsel with Justice Action Center. “Unfortunately, the president’s actions have not matched those words. The Biden administration should immediately reverse its troubling decision to subject families to expedited removal and instead focus on building a system that welcomes our immigrant neighbors with dignity.”
“The Biden administration’s decision to bring back expedited removal goes against its purported vision of building a fair and just immigration system,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project. “Expedited removal is a cruel tactic that is implemented by agencies and institutions that have a track record of harming immigrant communities. To build a better immigration system, we cannot revert back to harmful policies of the past; we need new and bold solutions that center the rights and humanity of all people, especially those seeking safety and protection.”
“We are concerned by today’s news that the Biden administration will rapidly expel migrant families and children seeking protection within our borders,” said Santiago Mueckay, Manager of Federal Government Relations at Save the Children. “Expedited removal without due process is a clear violation of the right to seek asylum, going against everything we have advocated for. We urge the administration to reverse this decision, and treat asylum-seeking families and children in accordance with human rights standards, and with dignity and respect. Only then can we move toward a more humane and just asylum system.”
“The administration’s decision to use expedited removal for asylum-seekers is a deep disappointment that will result in great harm to vulnerable people fleeing horrific violence,” said Donna Norton, Executive Vice President at MomsRising. “In fact, it will be a death sentence for some, including moms and children. America’s moms want every asylum-seeker to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect and that isn’t possible when you expedite life-and-death decisions. Denying due process isn’t efficient, it’s inhumane. We must do better.”
“There is no wrong way to seek asylum and DHS saying there is in a government statement contravenes U.S. values and U.S. laws, said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director Government Affairs, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “We urge DHS and the Biden administration to uphold both U.S. values and laws and open ports of entry for asylum seekers, allow for due process rather than expedited removal so that immigrants will be able to seek asylum safely.”
“Returning people to the very dangers they were fleeing without allowing them to make their claims heard is not building back better. We are deeply disappointed in the Biden Administration’s decision to return to expedited removal at the border. We have seen the impacts of this policy before–it will not deter people from coming and only fuel migration. People, families, and children who are fleeing targeted violence, corruption, poverty and natural disasters urgently need protection. A humane and welcoming system at the border that processes people and allows them to make their claims is possible. We urge the Biden Administration to live up to its promises to restore access to asylum and not play into politics,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG Co-director.
“The administration’s announcement that it is reverting to expedited case screenings in CBP custody leaves us outraged,” said Ursela Ojeda, policy advisor of the Migrant Rights & Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Once again embracing practices rooted in deterrence rather than welcome, it is particularly galling to claim that the “right” way to seek protection is to request asylum at ports of entry when ports remain intentionally inaccessible to people seeking asylum. Six months into its term, the Biden administration continues to illegally block the majority of people seeking safety from doing so, regardless of their right to do so irrespective of where and how they enter the country. To now implement the same expedited processes for those encountered when they are forced to enter between ports of entry is to ignore years of evidence that border officials fail to appropriately screen people for a fear of return, risking their immediate return to harm without any recourse.
As we have now done more times than we ever imagined possible, we call on the administration to immediately and fully restart access to asylum, including at ports of entry, and to reject returning to inherently unfair expedited processes at the border. It is well past time for the administration to start welcoming people with dignity.”
“We at NILC are deeply troubled by the Biden administration’s decision to expand the use of expedited removal for migrant families, a fundamentally flawed process that denies asylum seekers and migrants their day in court. Doubling down on this harmful policy is a step in the wrong direction and will compound the disparate impact that the administration’s focus on deterrence at the border has on low-income migrants of color,” said Avideh Moussavian, Director of Federal Advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center. “Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. The Biden administration must create fair and humane asylum processes and a 21st-century immigration system that centers peoples’ dignity and humanity.”
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The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is composed of more than 85 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