Press Release

Editor’s Note: These reported concessions from the Biden administration for the funding bill for Ukraine and Israel aid are just the latest abhorrent components being considered for the bill. In addition to the below, earlier this week, the #WelcomewithDignity Campaign held a virtual press conference with U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and leading advocates. Video recording and press release here. Previous statements with member quotes on this issue from the #WWD Campaign can be found here and here

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#WelcomeWithDignity Rejects Efforts to End Asylum
Advocates Denounce the White House’s Willingness to Trade Asylum for Foreign Aid

Washington, DC – Several media outlets have reported that the Biden administration is willing to curtail life-saving protections to people fleeing persecution, as well as expand the use of rapid deportation proceedings for those already in the United States, in exchange for emergency foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel. The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights affirms that any anti-immigrant concession is unacceptable and inhumane, especially permanent policy changes in exchange for one-time foreign aid. 

The Biden administration’s reported concessions to make it more difficult for people to pass their initial asylum screening, codify an asylum ban, and expand expedited removal to people and families who have longstanding ties in the U.S. People’s lives are not bargaining chips. 

The President must remain steadfast to the United States’ founding commitment to protecting refugees at home and abroad and defend democracy. The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is grateful to the members of Congress who have rejected this false choice

We encourage Congress to strongly denounce efforts to change permanent immigration laws as part of any funding package. We renew our call to the Biden Administration to cease engaging in negotiations that would decimate asylum. 

Nearly 200 civil rights, human rights and racial justice organizations sent a letter last month urging the President to reject such extreme proposals. Addressing global displacement needs, including at the U.S. border, requires thoughtful and humane solutions. These proposals will only result in more cruelty and inhumane treatment. 

“It is unconscionable that the President is willing to trade protections for one group of people to aid others. It does not have to be one for the other. The punitive policies of the previous administration did little to address the real humanitarian problems people seeking asylum face and should not be replicated by the Biden administration,” said Melina Roche, #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign Manager. “People flee out of necessity. I am heartbroken that the country I love, which welcomed my family and me as asylum seekers, is turning its back on other people looking to escape danger. As a nation, we must continue to reject extreme anti-immigrant measures that punish people who are seeking safety and a better life. It is always wrong to use people as political pawns.”

“Restoring the soul of America shouldn’t mean embracing Trump immigration policies or giving in to Republicans’ extreme demands,” said Vanessa Cardenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “President Biden risks a major strategic error flipping from drawing a sharp contrast with Trump’s extreme immigration agenda to adopting parts of that same extreme agenda himself. He may be doing this out of misguided short-term political expediency, but there will be a steep political price to pay among his own voters.”

“Eviscerating asylum law in exchange for a short term funding bill would be nothing short of catastrophic for refugees and the United States,” said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “These proposals are tantamount to reinstating Trump-era policies that President Biden, Democrats, and many Republicans alike have derided as anathema to fundamental American values. They would lead to racial profiling, family separation, severe harassment, and the trampling of the civil rights and liberties of immigrants seeking safety and people of color throughout the United States. Rather than make the country safer, these proposals would only sow chaos, lead to more deaths and insecurity, and allow agents of fear to advance their hateful agenda. Caving into these undemocratic tactics sets a dangerous precedent for the future. We demand better of President Biden.”

“The willingness of the White House to sacrifice vulnerable people is simply unacceptable,” said Kica Matos, President of the National Immigration Law Center.  “We call on congressional champions to stand up and do the right thing. Senate Democrats must reject these extreme anti-immigrant proposals, and instead work toward sensible solutions that live up to our legal and moral commitments to welcome those seeking safety.”

“It is immensely frustrating to see our government make such bad choices when we all know better. We should expand legal pathways and use parole authorities to admit people in orderly, safe, and humane ways. This is what has worked for border communities and what would work for the country,” said Marisa Limón Garza, Executive Director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. “Raising the fear threshold to claim asylum, implementing a third-country transit ban, and expanding expedited removal nationwide would be a grave mistake. The first two of these will make asylum practically inaccessible to vulnerable people in an increasingly dangerous world. The latter will have a deep chilling effect on immigrant communities, making them less likely to report crimes or abuses. None of them will stop migrants from coming, but all of them will drive people deeper into the shadows. We can and must do better.”

“President Biden must comply with human values and defend Human Rights. An immediate deportation is sending people to torture and death,” said Geronimo Ramirez, Co-founder and Executive Director of Comunidad Sol. “Leaving our home country is not a decision, it’s the last option we have to save our lives. We are forced to migrate. Indigenous Peoples are always the most affected by this country’s cruel and inhumane immigration policies, as such we demand that the Biden administration fulfill its commitments to protect lives and Human Rights.”

“As lawmakers continue their inappropriate efforts to negotiate away key refugee protections in exchange for foreign aid, the Women’s Refugee Commission today is gravely concerned to hear that the Biden administration is not only open to these negotiations but is now putting the expansion of expedited removal nationwide on the table, in addition to already proposed restrictions to asylum,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “People’s lives are not bargaining chips. Expanding expedited removal would have devastating impacts on people’s right to seek asylum. It also could subject countless people, including families with U.S. citizen children living in the United States, to rapid deportation with no chance for due process.”

“These inhumane proposals being considered by President Biden, that basically use people’s lives as a bargaining token, are not just unconscionable from a humanitarian perspective but they will make the situation at the border worse, not better, which is obvious to all of us who work there. It makes no sense from a political perspective for President Biden to double back on “restoring the soul of this country” in an effort to appease, support, and reinforce anti-immigrant forces and sentiment in this country,” said Thomas Cartwright in leadership at Witness at the Border.

“Asylum is a human right. For President Biden to treat it as a political bargaining chip is unconscionable and would be catastrophic for our nation and refugees around the world. It is heartbreakingly ironic that he would trade people’s sacred right to refuge from violence in order to fund war,” said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project. “Through this legislation, President Biden would codify some of the Trump administration’s most anti-immigrant policies, betraying his fundamental promise to restore fairness to the immigration system. Reports of expanding expedited removal – which allows ICE officers to deport people without giving them a day in court – would also lead to increased racial profiling, arrests, and detention of Black and brown noncitizens throughout the country.”

“Decency and racial equity are key principles of this administration — except when it comes to Black, Brown, and Indigenous immigrants and asylum seekers,” said Azadeh Erfani, Senior Policy Analyst of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “The Biden administration is proposing to advance legislative changes that will terrorize immigrant communities nationwide and send asylum seekers to their death. These shameful proposals, directly lifted from the Trump playbook, would lead to rampant human rights violations and racial profiling across the United States. This administration is at a crossing point: will it decide to become the prior, or stand for fairness and dignity for all, including immigrants and people seeking asylum?”

“President Biden and his Administration are failing to deliver their promises to build a welcoming, humane, inclusive border, asylum, and immigration system. Instead, they have resorted to the same draconian, xenophobic, and dangerous Trump-era policies. Throughout our country’s history, this approach has proven to be ineffective and has led to hundreds of human and civil rights violations and are responsible for the thousands of lives lost at our southern border, including children and families,” said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director and Founder of the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR). “Border communities, immigration advocates, and humanitarian assistance providers who have been at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis urge President Biden and Congress to honor our country’s legacy and commitment to asylum seekers and refugees. We demand President Biden to deliver on his promises and not waste any more valuable time negotiating ill-conceived and ineffective solutions.” 

“Trading the dignity and safety of asylum seekers in exchange for one-time foreign aid would be absolutely disastrous. The rumored policy changes would annihilate asylum protections and have a devastating impact on people seeking safety and refuge. As an organization working on both sides of the U.S.-México border, we know well the horrific consequences of policies like these. Human lives hang in the balance as lawmakers decide whether this country will live up to our ideals or turn our back on the most vulnerable,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, co-founder and executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef).

“This is wholly unacceptable,” said Vanessa Dojaquez-Torres, Policy Counsel for HIAS. “Caving into these demands would not only harm asylum seekers but weaken U.S. leadership domestically and abroad. This country cannot stand for global peace and security while flatly denying it to the most vulnerable among us. The impacts of these policy changes are clear. These changes will not secure our border. They will not filter out weak asylum claims. What they will accomplish is harming our communities, our workforce, and our role as a global leader on human rights. Surely, this is too high a cost for meager political gains.” 

“Our nation is strongest when it defends and affirms values and ideals other nations trample over. We should be welcoming and integrating asylum-seekers and others fleeing harm, with empathy, respect, and dignity, not gutting the few opportunities that exist to ease their pain and suffering. Immigrants are real persons, not political pawns, and should never be used for expedient policymaking just to satisfy GOP extremists holding our nation’s foreign aid for ransom. Giving in and accepting these Trump-inspired, cruel, ineffective, and destabilizing approaches to immigration will hurt millions, deflate our community in a critical election year, and still not satisfy the hyenas whose thirst to end immigration is bottomless,” said Angelica Salas, CHIRLA Executive Director.

“We are devastated by the news that the administration appears willing to play politics with human lives. Trading away the rights and safety of asylum seekers and immigrant communities for a supplemental funding package is absolutely unacceptable,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy at the Tahirih Justice Center. “The policies being discussed have nothing to do with ‘border security’ and would only increase the humanitarian crisis at the border by creating nearly impossible barriers to apply for and receive asylum and put immigrant survivors of gender-based violence at great risk of further harm and persecution. Expanding expedited removal would gut critical due process protections that immigrants, including those fleeing gender-based violence at home and in the United States, desperately need to access safety and justice. And the impact will land disproportionately on already marginalized immigrants of color. The Tahirih Justice Center urges the White House to reverse course and stop selling out immigrants and asylum seekers for a funding deal.”

“Human rights are not chits to be bartered for political ends; they are fundamental guarantees to human dignity that must not be traded away. If we want to protect human dignity, support business needs for migration, and uphold national security, the United States must ensure our laws provide safe, orderly, and fair pathways to migration. Closing avenues to safely seek asylum will not stop people from seeking safety,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights. “The Biden Administration made promises to return the U.S. as a leader in protecting migrant rights. His willingness now to trade short-sighted, illegal and harmful cuts to asylum for foreign aid at a time when asylum protections are particularly crucial is a cruelly ironic betrayal of those promises.”

“We cannot continue sacrificing the lives of people seeking safety through immoral, wrong political choices,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute. “These changes will not solve the crisis at our borders but will instead lead to more chaos, hurt our communities, and increase the already appalling death toll. The White House must make significant changes to our immigration laws, as per then-candidate Biden’s advice to ‘End Trump’s assault on the dignity of immigrant communities.”

“We are horrified that the Biden administration is poised to trade away longstanding refugee protections and enshrine even more extreme anti-immigrant measures into law, including a ban on asylum for most people seeking safety at the southern border and a dramatic expansion of fast-tracked deportations,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The proposals under consideration would extinguish critical lifelines for people fleeing deadly violence, separate families, and devastate immigrant communities. These include policies President Biden himself denounced on the campaign trail, where he positioned himself as a champion of immigrant and refugee rights. These policies will not bring ‘security’ to border communities or make anyone safe. They will only bring more chaos, and more refugee deaths.”

“Trading the dignity of immigrants, and gutting asylum laws — a bedrock principle of U.S. democracy, for a one-time foreign aid deal, is despicable,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Government Relations Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “President Biden is going back on his commitment  to restore “the soul of the nation” by engaging in these wholly inappropriate negotiations that would not only hurt Black, Brown, and Indigenous immigrants and asylum seekers, but it would hurt all American families, and communities.”

“Through these proposals, the Biden administration has made it clear that they are willing to sacrifice our values at home in pursuit of defending our allies’ values abroad,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “We can and should be able to do both. It is unconscionable to trade away the fundamental rights of people seeking safety in a funding dispute. These provisions would essentially end asylum in the United States by banning anyone who passed through a third country en route to the U.S. from eligibility for asylum and by making asylum pre-screening much harder to pass.  Furthermore, expanding expedited removal would be unprecedented in its devastation to immigrant communities throughout the U.S. We’ve seen expedited removal, a fast-track deportation process, applied at the border, and it is rife with abuse. Expanding it nationwide would be disastrous and would put any person who isn’t able to immediately prove when and how they entered the U.S. at risk of being unlawfully and wrongly deported through a system with no guaranteed right to counsel and few mechanisms to remedy errors. We are outraged that the Biden administration would even consider proposing such policies, never mind actively engage in negotiations that would codify them into law.”

“The United States must uphold its moral and legal obligations to protect those who come here fleeing persecution. History teaches that restrictions on access to asylum will only endanger the lives of vulnerable people while doing nothing to enhance our security,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, Faculty Co-Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law. “Now is the time for President Biden and Congress to stay true to our commitments and show that they have learned from the mistakes of the past, rather than repeat them.”

“The proposals we are seeing in these negotiations are, at their core, extreme, anti-immigrant, and anti-family,” said Erol Kekic, Senior Vice President for Programs at CWS. “They are not only morally repugnant, but also in direct violation of international  law. If enacted, these restrictions will undoubtedly return families and asylum seekers to the very danger they fled. To trade the rights of some vulnerable groups for the persecution of others is as inhumane as much of the Trump administration’s years-long campaign against immigrants and newcomers;; people are not political pawns, and their basic human rights are not chips to be traded. The Biden administration must reject the framework at hand, and commit to protecting the rights of those seeking safety at our borders.” 

“Migrants aren’t pawns in Washington’s political game,” says Amy Fischer, Director of Refugee and Migrant Rights with Amnesty International USA, “We have said it before and we will say it again: people have the human right to seek asylum – without discrimination of any kind. Subjecting immigrants across the United States to nationwide expedited removal – a policy that would allow DHS to round up migrants and subject them to mandatory detention and fast track deportation processes is an extreme proposal that risks the safety and security of all immigrants in the United States. The Biden administration and Congress must restore access to asylum in line with international human rights law and standards, not gut it.”

 “We are outraged that our peoples and families continue to be used as political pawns in the on-going negotiations on a federal funding bill.  At the Mayan League, our team is bound together across colonial borders by our human dignity and families. We share a migration story; from political Indigenous refugees, former unaccompanied minors, mixed status families, Latin immigrants and first generation U.S citizens. We collectively fight to protect our fundamental human rights in the face of white supremacy and systemic inequalities,”  said Lorena Brady, an immigrant from Ecuador and the Policy and Program Manager with the International Mayan League. “The inhumanity shown by President Biden in considering raising the credible fear standard, national expedited removals, codifying the asylum ban, and further dismantling asylum protections is deplorable and in violation of International law, such as the Refugee Convention. We firmly denounce the Republican party’s continued vitriol and hate towards refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers who are primarily Indigenous, Black and Brown. We fear that Indigenous children and women, an already highly at risk group, will be disproportionately impacted with the proposed anti-asylum measures.  The extremely racist approach these negotiations have taken is the status quo, not at all surprising to those of us that are part of the immigrant community. Our human rights can not be traded away for emergency foreign military “aid.”

“Asylum is a lifeline for people forced to flee their homes due to persecution, torture, and conflict,” said Hans Van de Weerd, Senior Vice President for Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). “Reports that measures are being considered that would undermine this vital protection are deeply alarming. Creating yet more bans on asylum, setting arbitrary limits on the number of people who can be granted protection, and vastly expanding expedited deportations that do not provide a fair chance to be heard would run completely counter to the humane, fair and orderly asylum system the Biden administration has pledged to establish. These drastic changes to asylum law are unlikely to reduce the number of people seeking refuge at the border but are certain to penalize people forced to seek protection outside their countries, as we have seen with the asylum ban currently in place. These measures will also undermine efforts to make asylum processes at the southern border and beyond more orderly, as people take more dangerous paths looking for refuge. Such counterproductive actions by the United States could add further fuel to a disturbing trend by wealthy countries of denying fair access to asylum despite hosting a small fraction of refugees globally. We urge the U.S. Congress and the Biden administration to work in a bipartisan manner to uphold the fundamental right to seek asylum, work to expand and improve safe and orderly pathways to protection, like humanitarian parole, support border and interior communities providing humane reception to people seeking safety in the United States, and resource the asylum system to provide more timely and fair decisions.” 

“It is outrageous to hear President Biden callously using asylum seekers as the go-to bargaining chip to get military aid from Congress. A new low has been reached when some lives are declared more valuable than others. A key driver of forced migration from Central America in the 1980’s and early 1990’s was U.S. financing of military interventions in the region — we still endure the impact of those wars today. CARECEN SF was born of that time and we absolutely oppose using U.S. tax dollars to fuel military conflict, and the hinging of that aid on the right to seek asylum,” said Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, Executive Director of the Central American Resource Center of Northern California – CARECEN SF. “It is both illogical and immoral to think that border security will be increased by making it nearly impossible to seek asylum; only when we address root causes of migration, including displacement due to war, while also building a more trauma-informed asylum system, will security increase and pressure at the border subside. We agree that the U.S. immigration system needs updating, but eagerness to strike a deal, in a rushed manner behind closed doors, is not the answer. Both the Executive and Legislative branches must take a stand on the side of protecting refugees and asylum seekers.” 

“Tying asylum restrictions to foreign aid would be a morally dubious quid pro quo that would functionally end asylum and undermine America’s commitment to global humanitarian leadership,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “Responding with cruelty to those who have already contended with rampant violence, war, and persecution in their homeland is patently inhumane. Trading bedrock human rights away out of perceived political expediency would be an unprecedented abdication of our nation’s moral and legal obligations.”

“We are appalled by the White House’s attempt to use the human right to asylum as a bargaining tool,” said Quixote Center Executive Director Kim Lamberty. “Human lives are not disposable. Our partners at migrant shelters in Southern Mexico and Panama are witnessing the growing confusion and desperation unfold as a result of new restrictions such as the asylum ban and CBP One. Cutting back on life-saving asylum protections will not alleviate the humanitarian crisis at our southern border; it will only subject people fleeing danger to even more suffering and chaos. Instead, we urge lawmakers to expand lawful pathways and expedite access to work permits so that all our communities can thrive.”

“Raising the initial asylum screening standard and speeding asylum seekers’ deportations will cause many people with urgent protection needs to be sent back to real danger of death, torture, or imprisonment,” said Adam Isacson, Director for Defense Oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America. “The number of people needing protection isn’t the main challenge here: it’s the U.S. government’s paltry investment in its asylum system. We urge the administration and Congress not to do this.”

“The Biden administration’s reckless attempt to erode access to asylum puts those seeking humanitarian safety at great risk. The administration must recognize our nation’s duty to welcome asylum seekers who make the difficult choice to embark on perilous journeys in search of safety and protection. Government’s acrimony toward migrants should have no place in the Biden Administration, and compassion, not callousness, should guide our treatment of those seeking refuge,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of

“It is imperative that the U.S. continue to strengthen its ability to welcome people seeking asylum with dignity and respect. These proposed concessions, instead, irreparably harm and weaken our immigration system,” said Kate Clark, Esq., Senior Director of Immigration Services, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, operator of the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services. “In the past five years, the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services has assisted more than 178,000 people fleeing persecution and violence to provide them with respite shelter, case management, legal support and travel coordination to be reunited with their loved ones across the nation. We must be vigilant in protecting the most vulnerable. Stripping the U.S. of its asylum rights is a detriment to humanity.”

“If these changes go through, thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives will be returned to their home countries to once again face persecution and death. Many will die,” said Priscilla Orta, Supervising Attorney for Project Corazon at Lawyers for Good Government. “We are horrified at the reports that the White House is considering changes to asylum law that would violate our international obligations and decimate decades-old immigration laws that were passed with almost unanimous support. We categorically oppose any attempts to build even higher barriers to asylum, and reject Trump-like attempts to dismantle our asylum system. We are better than this.”



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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: