Press Release

For Immediate Release: Jan. 29, 2024

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The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign Denounces President Biden’s Statement to Endanger Asylum Seekers

Washington, DC – The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is outraged by President Biden’s embrace of policies that would eviscerate the U.S. asylum system in a statement last Friday.

The policies being negotiated by a handful of Senators behind closed-doors are far from fair – they are cruel, inhumane, and would create confusion and chaos at the border. 

The previous administration put forward similar policies to “shut down” the border and prevent people seeking asylum; these policies failed to solve the humanitarian problem or secure our border. Repeating ineffective policies will only lead to the same ineffective results. 

Instead of embracing policies of the past that punish or deny people their right to seek safety, the President should remember the remarkable welcoming spirit of communities across the border and the country who have welcomed people seeking safety for decades. 

The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign and partners have put forward solutions to create an orderly, humane and dignified asylum system that upholds people’s right to seek safety. We need solutions, not more harm.

“President Biden’s remarks are deplorable. It sends a signal that the U.S. is no longer a beacon for refugees across the world, its founding principle,” said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager of the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign. “The past administration’s actions are a case study proving that policies that punish people for seeking safety at the border do not work. This approach is cruel and inhumane, and it does not work – period. Elected leaders must adopt policies that center our shared humanity and protect the fundamental right to safety.”

“President Biden promised to immigrant and border communities his administration would deliver a humane, effective, and inclusive border and immigration system. Instead, his administration’s so-called “compromise” has embraced draconian, xenophobic, and dangerous Trump-era policies. Policies that we know are ineffective, have led to hundreds of human and civil rights violations and are responsible for thousands of lives lost at our southern border, including the lives of children and entire families,” said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR). “It is deeply disappointing to see President Biden echoing white supremacist, hateful rhetoric and elevating the erroneous belief that barriers, deterrence, criminalization, and deportation are the only solutions to addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis. These political games are poisoning real, people-centered, effective solutions.”

“It is enraging to see President Biden break his promises to restore a humane and orderly asylum and immigration system and instead retreat to endorse poisoning pills and enforcement-first approaches to immigration. Policies excluding people or curtailing access to due process and legal pathways are documented failures. Texas has strewn miles of razor wire and sent thousands of police to the border, and yet mothers and children still cross in places like Eagle Pass, undeterred by our Governor’s xenophobic preening and white supremacist posturing,” said Marisa Limón Garza, Executive Director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. “We call on Congress and the Biden administration to reverse course and turn away from the political games that drive us toward these reckless immigration proposals. We must have common-sense immigration laws that strengthen our country by bolstering legal pathways, respecting people’s rights, and honoring shared values.”

“President Biden’s craven political calculus has led him to champion the destruction of our asylum system and the complete abandonment of our international human rights obligations,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The proposals reportedly under consideration would eviscerate due process for people seeking asylum and make it nearly impossible for them to find protection in the United States. They would do nothing to address the urgent humanitarian and logistical challenges at our southern border and only create more chaos, insecurity, and suffering. Let us be clear: If President Biden signs this bill into law, it will cement his legacy as the president who destroyed our asylum system and delivered a death sentence to refugees fleeing persecution.”

“President Biden’s statement not only abandons his campaign commitment to protect human rights; it abandons U.S. obligations under international law. We call on the Biden Administration to immediately rescind its harmful comments and make clear that it will not negotiate away the fundamental right to seek asylum from persecution,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights. “People move, and when they are forced to move due to humanitarian emergencies, attempts at shutting our border simply force people to take more dangerous and disorderly pathways. Being bullied into backdoor and last-minute negotiations for political purposes is what threatens our nation; not people yearning to be free.” 

“President Biden has abandoned immigrants. He now says, if given the authority, he would shut down the border, calling it “broken.” What’s broken are Biden’s promises to bring back sensible immigration policies that respect the humanity and dignity of newcomers and of those fleeing persecution. Instead, Biden is now unabashedly taking his cues from the Trump playbook. It’s past time for President Biden to show some political courage and truly stand up for immigrants and refugees,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, Executive Director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef).

“For months, the UndocuBlack network has been ringing the alarm on the negotiations between the Biden administration and Senate leaders on the dangers of using our communities as political pawns,” said Taisha Saintil, Senior Policy Analyst of UndocuBlack Network. “The Biden administration ignored our communities and President Biden has stated that if given the authority, he would “shut down the border” to asylum seekers. Several news sources have reported that the proposals deriving from the negotiations would severely restrict migrants’ ability to seek asylum. For example, this bill would require asylum seekers to meet a higher standard of proof in credible fear interviews. Black asylum seekers are already at an extreme disadvantage as they face bias and discrimination within the immigration system, which has often resulted in immigration judges and asylum officers doubting their credibility. This change will disproportionately impact Black asylum seekers, as will the increased power and discretion given to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), two agencies notoriously known to abuse and perpetuate harm against Black immigrants. As asylum seekers flee from persecution and retaliation, the Biden administration should not add yet another chapter to the shameful history of mistreatment and racism toward them.”

“President Biden’s remarks signify a dangerous regression in our nation’s long-standing commitment to providing refuge to those fleeing persecution,” said Priscilla Orta, Director of Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon. We already learned during the Trump administration that policies restricting the right to seek asylum do not deter those seeking safety; they only lead to more violence and even the risk of death for the most vulnerable among us. We urge President Biden and Congress to stand firmly against efforts to limit asylum and uphold our moral duty to protect refugees and asylum seekers.”

“I am deeply disappointed and concerned by President Joe Biden’s recent statements about tightening border policies,” said Estuardo Cifuentes, a Guatemalan asylum seeker and Client Services Manager at Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon. “Closing or restricting border access for asylum seekers endangers those of us who are already in extremely vulnerable situations. These policies increase the suffering of people desperate for safety and give more strength to human trafficking organizations, which benefit from migrants’ desperation to save their lives. It is extremely important that political leaders provide solutions that respect the human rights of all people.”

“This administration is heading in a very dangerous and ineffective direction on immigration and must reverse course immediately. The policy proposals being promoted as ‘border security’ are not only out of step with our values but they will not solve the challenges immigrants and those that serve them along our southern border are facing,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “Instead, they will bring more procedural and logistical confusion and chaos and severely undermine pathways to humanitarian relief. For immigrant survivors of gender-based violence seeking asylum we know these kinds of policies will increase the risk of revictimization and trauma all while putting more power in the hands of abusers and traffickers by ratcheting up the climate of fear that many immigrants already face daily. We need real solutions, not harmful rhetoric. When immigrants come to the U.S. seeking safety and dignity they should not be met with hostile and unmanageable policies that violate their humanity as well as their legal rights. The administration can and must do better.”

“If President Biden signs this bill into law, it risks cementing his legacy as the president who dismantled our asylum system and delivered a harsh fate to refugees fleeing persecution,” said Fatima Saidi, National Director of We Are All America. “We implore the administration to reconsider its stance and prioritize policies that align with the principles of justice, compassion, and respect for human rights. The proposed reforms, as they stand, threaten to perpetuate suffering and insecurity rather than offer genuine solutions to the complex challenges we face at our borders.” 

“The Murphy-Lankford-Sinema proposals reportedly under consideration are not fair and would not secure the border. We know this because many of them were championed by President Trump and we saw the outcomes of refugees being turned back from our borders, people suffering, and DHS struggling to deal with the chaos these policies created,” said Robyn Barnard, senior director of refugee advocacy at Human Rights First. “Where is the President that Americans turned to who promised more humanity in our immigration system, respect for our refugee laws, and an end to racist policies at the border? This is politicking at its worst and we need the President and Senate Democrats to reject this deal now before more damage is done.”   

“President Biden’s statement is very concerning, and neglects all his previous promises about protecting asylum seekers’ rights. He is effectively trading asylum protections in exchange for emergency authority at the borders and funding support for current conflicts. Asylum seekers should never be treated like a bargaining chip at the negotiation table. We strongly urge the President not to support such dangerous compromises that put people who are seeking safety in further danger” said Ali Aljundi, Membership Manager at Refugee Congress.

“Closing the door on people seeking asylum is no cause for celebration,” said Quixote Center Executive Director Dr. Kim Lamberty. “Just last week the Biden Administration sent two deportation flights to Haiti, where gang violence killed nearly 5,000 people in 2023. The policies proposed in these negotiations endanger the lives of more Black and Brown people by returning them to the very violence they are fleeing. As we saw when Title 42 was in place, blocking asylum seekers will not prevent vulnerable people from migrating for safety and a better life. We urge Congress and the White House to work together to find solutions that uphold the right of vulnerable people to migrate, and honor the life and dignity of all migrants.” 

“The false “U.S. border is broken” narrative that both Democrats and Republicans promote, strips people seeking protection in the U.S. of their humanity. President Biden’s statement on Friday, January 26, 2024 regarding border security demonstrates that what is actually broken is the U.S. government’s ability to produce timely, effective, dignified and human rights-centered solutions for people forced to flee because of violence, war, planetary warming and persecution to name just a few of the drivers of forced migration across the globe. U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be used to increase barriers to an already weakened asylum system, or to support military interventions as a means of resolving conflict. Instead, taxpayer dollars should be used to protect human rights, provide urgent relief to refugees and displaced people, and to support the integration, rather than exclusion of people who migrate,” said Lariza Dugan Cuadra, Executive Director of CARECEN San Francisco.

“President Biden’s call to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border is beyond dangerous and misguided,” said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “The President has signaled a willingness to permanently double down on the failed xenophobic policies of President Trump in exchange for a one-time funding deal. To do so would be a shocking betrayal of American values and the President’s own efforts to rebuild a humane and orderly immigration system.”

“President Biden’s remarks are profoundly disappointing, signaling a complete abandonment of migrant communities and his pledges for a secure and compassionate asylum system,” said Aimée Santillán, policy analyst at the Hope Border Institute. “The border is not broken. We are not in crisis. What’s truly in jeopardy is our nation’s commitment to embracing diversity, vulnerability, and human dignity. It’s imperative that our federal government cease gambling with people’s lives and futures, and instead, extend a supportive hand for humane integration, allowing individuals to flourish within our borders.”

“We are deeply disappointed by President Biden’s recent statement urging Congress to pass legislation that would impose tougher restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Giulia McPherson, Vice President of Advocacy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “While we recognize that serious improvements in processing must be made at the border, we disagree with the idea that more restrictive asylum policies will solve any of these issues. We urge the Biden Administration to work with Congress to address the humanitarian needs of those arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border by investing in programs that ensure a well-rounded response to asylum seekers and support U.S. communities as they welcome the newly arrived.” 

“President Biden wants to shut down the border to people in search of safety just like his predecessor,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “What he forgets is that seeking asylum is a legal and human right that cannot be switched off on a whim. He forgets that President Trump, too, saw increased numbers of desperate people migrating to the United States, despite his efforts to punish migrants at every turn. The Women’s Refugee Commission urges President Biden to remember the chaos and harm we saw for more than three years the last time a president attempted to shut down the border and recognize that a permanent expulsion authority cannot possibly result in a ‘secure border.’ Through every misguided attempt at deterrence in the past decade, we have talked to women and families who remind us they flee their homes not because of U.S. policy but because they have no choice left to protect their children’s and families’ lives. At a time of unprecedented global displacement, the United States must exemplify leadership by ensuring a humane, orderly, and welcoming asylum system, not turn its back on the most vulnerable.” 

“There is an urgent need for legitimate debate about modernizing our immigration system, because the status quo is not sustainable,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President & CEO of Global Refuge. “While bipartisanship requires compromise, Title 42 expulsions by another name would be devastating to families seeking safety, just as they would be to our nation’s reputation as a global humanitarian leader. It would be deeply misguided to revive an expulsion policy that contributed to more disorder and repeat crossings at the southern border.”

“We are deeply alarmed by President Biden’s statements championing what would be the most restrictive immigration policies in recent history. His proposal to “shut down” the border to people seeking asylum would endanger countless lives and deal yet another severe blow to our asylum system,” said Monika Y. Langarica, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law. “History teaches that it is both immoral and impossible to stop people fleeing harm from seeking refuge in the United States. Instead of doubling down on Trump’s destructive policies and hateful rhetoric, President Biden should reverse course immediately and keep his campaign-trail promise to implement humane immigration policies.”

“The humanitarian crisis we should be called to address is one where people are forced to migrate in search of safety and to have their basic human needs met, and one where our nation has prioritized paying for military equipment and border walls over housing, health care, and food. Any attempt to “shut down the border” just fuels anti-immigrant sentiment, racism and xenophobia, another set of crises that has led to dramatic misinformation and fear mongering,” said Amy Gottlieb, US Migration Director, American Friends Service Committee. “What our communities are serious about is upholding a commitment to prioritizing people’s human rights and basic needs.”

“There are many things that come to mind as I hear the news of President Biden’s betrayal to our communities and how he wants to shut the border, which we know is not a solution. Many say “stop the invasion” but before the Europeans arrived on these lands, our Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, were already here. So who are the real invaders? Militarizing Indigenous Lands divided by imposed borders violates our rights of self-determination and autonomy,” said Nana Teresa, Maya Mam Elder, Founding member and current Board Member of the International Mayan League. “Our Peoples are still here, we are alive and that is another reason why the resistance continues. But sadly, the governments are only thinking about the consequences without looking at the reasons that led to the current humanitarian challenges.  At the Mayan League, we will continue presenting our recommendations, we will not be silenced. We have to hold these governments accountable to stop the mistreatment of our peoples. We need to shift our conscience, our hearts need to feel the suffering of our peoples. We have lived and experienced repression during the war and genocide in Guatemala, and our Peoples continue to suffer. We are working hard to elevate our message and demand justice and respect for the right to seek asylum – a right that saved my life and my family in the 1990s. What we see every four years is a vicious cycle, a political  circus to cause fear. But we will continue fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, for refugee rights, for all people and for Mother Earth.”

“The Florence Project unequivocally condemns President Joe Biden’s comments supporting draconian restrictions on asylum, especially a new expulsion authority,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “By publicly indicating his support for such a policy, the President has fully abandoned his campaign promises to restore humanity to our immigration system. Equally distressingly is the President’s lack of understanding that an expulsion policy will both put people seeking protection in the United States in grave danger and do nothing to solve the very real challenges that we face at the border. Instead of embracing these cruel, anti-immigrant, and ineffective policies, President Biden should focus on solutions that would provide a fair, safe, and efficient process at the border while centering the inherent dignity and humanity of all migrants.” 

“The Biden administration is giving up human rights, such as eliminating asylum protections and assisting in mass deportations, in exchange for more funding for the White House war effort,” says Maria Asuncion Bilbao, Florida Campaign Coordinator at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). “He is resurrecting the Trump administration’s policies. Immigrant families who have been here for years, even decades, could be arrested and deported, calling this expedited removal rather than mass deportation. The Biden administration may continue Trump-era policies on expedited removal, allowing for the arrest and deportation of immigrant families who have been in the US for years. We cannot accept more money for wars that create more destabilization and refugees. This approach is misguided and will only lead to further destabilization and displacement. Instead of focusing on policies that create more refugees and undermine the asylum system, the Biden administration should prioritize human rights and work to create more stable and just societies.”

“The Biden Administration’s promises and commitment to address the root causes of Migration must not be hijacked and destroyed by extremist members of Congress. Acrimony toward migrants should have no place in government. Compassion and human rights, not callousness and political gamesmanship, should guide our treatment of those seeking refuge,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of



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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: