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Republican Proposal continues assault on the asylum system

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 8, 2023


Washington, D.C.The #WelcomewithDignity campaign strongly denounces the Republican party’s latest extreme, anti-immigrant proposal. The proposal, currently being tied to an international funding package, is in many instances, more severe than the infamous H.R. 2 bill passed by the House in May and alludes to a return to abhorrent practices seen under the Trump administration. We urge members of Congress and all Americans to reject any proposal that aims to trade off the fundamental right to seek asylum.

Many provisions in the proposal are deeply problematic and harmful: from detaining migrants, including families and children, during their asylum cases, to denying asylum seekers a fair day in court, to expanding asylum bans. These are violations of human rights that will only exacerbate human suffering at our border. And this is not an exhaustive list of what’s wrong with the proposal.

Meaningful immigration reform is long overdue, but it has no place on a spending bill. Gutting the right to seek asylum in exchange for anything is quite simply playing politics with people’s lives. Measures ending the right to seek asylum will also not “secure the border,” as some radical politicians claim. We must all stand against policies that strip individuals and families of their fundamental right to seek asylum.

“This extreme proposal is a declaration that Senate Republicans have embraced the anti-immigrant agenda of the House GOP. They don’t want asylum seekers in this country. Instead, they seek to punish them,” said Melina Roche, #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign Manager. “These politicians want to hijack our democratic process to block people who have fled violence, persecution and war – people, like my parents and six-year-old me, for whom the right to seek asylum in this country was a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. When your family’s lives are at risk you do everything you can to find safety. Senator Graham is correct about one thing: The world is on fire. We cannot turn our backs on asylum seekers now.”


“Republicans are making it painfully clear that they have complete disdain for migrants and asylum seekers. The callous changes to asylum law and humanitarian parole they seek would cost lives and separate families,” said Margaret Cargioli, Directing Attorney of Policy and Advocacy at Immigrant Defenders Law Center. Resuming the dangerous Remain in Mexico program and the cruel imprisonment of families should be the very last thing on anyone’s mind. Congress and the Biden administration must reject all these plainly anti-immigrant and inhumane policies. It is time that Congress works on immigration reform to welcome asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants with dignity, while providing immediate work authorization to help boost our economy. It is time to focus on smart immigration policies that place people above politics.”

“Borderland communities and migrants will not be served up on a silver platter for political consumption. We are just as important a component of the American fabric as any other region. Whether Democrats or Republicans like it or not, the right to seek asylum is legal. It’s disgusting to think that the militarization of my hometown or stripping the rights of vulnerable migrants is seen as merely a bargaining chip to trade for military support in Ukraine, Israel, or Taiwan,” said Marisa Limón Garza, Executive Director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and New Mexico. “Those who believe that imposing further restrictions on asylum will discourage migration are embarrassingly uninformed. The factors compelling individuals to leave their homes will not cease simply because Washington politicians delude themselves into believing in the failed policies of previous administrations. President Biden must not succumb to the temptation of a short-term political victory at the expense of migrant lives at the southern border.”

“This forced amalgamation of border policy with foreign aid is 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, persecution, and economic devastation in their homeland is patently inhumane. Legislators have a responsibility to reckon with their decades-long failure to reform our immigration system in a deliberate and dedicated manner. Trading bedrock human rights away out of perceived political expediency, however, would be an unprecedented abdication of our nation’s moral and legal obligations – and the very antithesis of principled leadership.”

“Asylum is not a bargaining chip to be traded away,” said Laurie Ball Cooper, U.S. Legal Services Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “Providing safety to those who come to America to flee from persecution is fundamental and should not be so callously disregarded.”

“Children arriving at the border alone or separated from family should always receive the utmost protection to ensure their safety, health and well-being,” said Mina Dixon Davis, Policy Analyst at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “Right now, Republicans in Congress are proposing to gut existing protections for these children, including stripping back long-standing, bipartisan provisions that would undermine more than two decades of progress towards building a more child-appropriate immigration system. Under Republicans’ extreme and cruel proposal, children would be subjected to longer stays in Border Patrol custody, detained in unlicensed facilities rampant with neglect and abuse, and placed in quick deportation proceedings, among other cruelties. We urge Congress to reject this proposal and protect children’s rights to safety, family, and asylum.”

“Asylum restrictions included in recent Senate budget proposals do not meet the needs of people seeking safety at the US-Mexico border and the communities welcoming them,” said Giulia McPherson, Vice President of Advocacy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “Instead, these proposals further limit access to asylum and do not provide long-term solutions to address the current challenges presented by increased displacement in the Western Hemisphere. We encourage Congress to find a path forward to reform our current asylum system rather than propose restrictions that only harm people seeking safety.” “Using the right to seek asylum as a bargaining tool in exchange for political gains is a disheartening approach that disregards the fundamental principles that made the United States a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge, principles of compassion and justice,” said Fatima Saidi, We Are All America Campaign Director. “Asylum is not a commodity to be traded away for other interests. It is a lifeline for those fleeing violence, persecution, and turmoil in their homelands. We must remember that our nation’s legal and ethical responsibilities should never be compromised for short-term political maneuvering. Upholding the values of humanity and empathy should always be our priority, and we must continue to advocate for the rights and safety of asylum seekers, no matter the political climate or external pressures.”

“Most of us, regardless of our race, zip code, or origin, believe that everyone should have the freedom to move to safety, the freedom to stay in their communities, and the freedom to thrive. But instead of embracing these broadly shared values, Senate Republicans continue to shamefully draw from Trump’s extreme MAGA playbook, fanning the flames of division and attacking people leaving dangerous conditions and seeking better lives. We forcefully reject these proposals to gut the asylum system and urge Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration to do the same,” said Natalia Aristizabal, Deputy Director of Make the Road New York. “For generations, albeit imperfectly, the United States has provided safety and opportunity for people fleeing violence and persecution. Instead of proposing cruel, failed policies to attack asylum seekers, Congress should pass a humane immigration reform that treats people with respect and provides permanent protection to the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are an integral part of our economy.” “We are frustrated that some in Congress are again seeking to hold human rights hostage to advance an unpopular, harmful, and illegal agenda,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights. “This threatens not only the lives and safety of people seeking protection from human rights violations, but well-being of millions of people in the United States who simply cannot afford to weather a government shutdown. Human rights are not chits to be bartered for political ends; they are basic guarantees to human dignity that must not be traded away.”

“This extremist immigration proposal, rather than actually investing in solutions, would destroy the U.S. asylum system and revert to cruel practices like jailing families fleeing persecution,” said Katharina Obser, Director of the Migrant Rights & Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “The proposal would also restart Remain in Mexico, create a new mass expulsions policy like Title 42, and eliminate humanitarian lifelines like Uniting for Ukraine. Shutting the door to safety in the U.S. would only create more chaos and harm at the southern border and exacerbate record levels of global displacement. We urge Congress to reject tried-and-failed immigration policies that sow chaos at the southern border and harm people exercising their legal right to seek asylum. Instead, lawmakers should fund the solutions that would actually uphold refugee law and help communities welcome people seeking asylum with dignity. This includes funding, at minimum, safe and orderly processing at U.S. ports of entry; humanitarian organizations and communities that critically support people seeking asylum; and speeding up work permit and permanent immigration relief processing. We can and must do right by those seeking protection here, and the many U.S. communities welcoming them, by investing in a fair and humane immigration system.”

“Everybody is entitled to live a life safe from harm and persecution; it is a fundamental human right,” said Laura St. John, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project Legal Director. “It is despicable that members of the U.S. Congress would even consider taking away that right to seek safety, never mind using a fundamental human right as a bargaining chip in budget and funding negotiations. The proposed Senate bill would effectively end asylum as we know it, require everyone be detained, including families, and end protections for unaccompanied immigrant children. It is radical, extreme, and goes against our very core values. We urge all members of the Senate to immediately reject this legislation and focus on funding the government, not passing cruel, anti-immigrant legislation.” “This extremist proposal aims to further decimate our asylum system, eviscerate the longstanding parole authority, and resurrect deadly deterrence policies like Remain in Mexico,” said Vanessa Rivas-Bernardy, Counsel at Justice Action Center. “The proposal seeks to allocate massive funding towards these inhumane and cruel measures that could otherwise resource border organizations continuing critical welcoming work in the absence of federal and local support.”

“The recently released proposal would put migrant children and families in grave danger. Increasing mandatory family detention, imposing a transit ban on asylum seekers, raising the credible fear standard, limiting and prohibiting the use of parole, the reinstitution of failed programs like Remain in Mexico and Title 42 are only a few of the most glaring provisions that make this proposal a non-starter,” said Christy Gleason, Vice President of Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns at Save the Children. “Congress should prioritize improvements to our immigration system that lives up to our American values and protects the rights and safety of children seeking asylum at our borders.”

“This radical proposal would decimate our asylum system and abandon our country’s legal and moral obligations to protect those fleeing persecution,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “It is shameful that lawmakers would use the lives of people seeking safety as political bargaining chips. This proposal offers no real solutions for the humanitarian challenges at our border and instead doubles down on failed policies that punish refugees, separate families, and make our communities less safe. We applaud Senator Padilla and other leaders for speaking out against this cynical ploy and urge all members of Congress to stand up for refugees.” “Just like the extreme H.R. 2 border legislation proposed in the House, the restrictions included in this Senate Republican proposal are at their core anti-faith, anti-immigrant, and anti-family. If passed, they would undoubtedly cause harm to vulnerable individuals and families at the border, as well as further undermine an already underfunded asylum and reception processes,” said Danilo Zak, Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “The attempt to trade and barter basic human rights is in direct opposition to the values our country claims to hold dear, and we encourage Congress to reject this proposal and instead choose a path that protects the vulnerable and upholds the inherent dignity of those seeking safety. Ongoing negotiations in Congress over appropriations should be about funding the Federal government in good faith by increasing capacity to welcome through infrastructure and investment in resettlement – not embedding cruelty into immigration policy.” “Members of Congress should reject any attempts to include changes to asylum law and policy that would restrict and undermine refugee protection in the United States,” said Human Rights First’s director of refugee advocacy, Robyn Barnard. “Instead, members should focus on passing much needed funding to support U.S. communities who are welcoming people seeking asylum and to ensure the timely processing of work permits and asylum adjudications by federal agencies, while avoiding money to increase harmful immigration detention or other enforcement-based programs.” “Congress must not ram through any new policy changes on asylum or refugee protection in the United States on any funding bill,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. Right now Congress must do its job, fund the government and U.S. communities who are welcoming people seeking asylum all over the country.

“This proposal is a cruel, cynical attempt to leverage foreign aid in exchange for an accelerated race to the bottom to gut the right to seek asylum,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). “CHIRLA categorically rejects the very premise of these misplaced ideas. We do so with the direct experience that we and our allies continue to show that it is possible to welcome newcomers with dignity rather than hostility. This is the reality for those who do make it through the gauntlets created by Texas, others and the Administration. In addition, we are increasingly seeing migrants who are being forced to wait in danger in Mexico and when they do reach the border, they may be subject to the latest asylum ban. We call on Congress and the Administration to work on restoring the promise of asylum rather than waste precious time on these harmful efforts to further undermine it.”

“This radical proposal seeks to effectively end the asylum as we know it, while drastically reducing the availability of parole, and removing protections for children and families from being detained indefinitely. Moreover, the proposal has very serious due process issues. It is a far cry from anything humane or even practical. But it is punitive. The imposition of asylum restrictions exacerbates the difficulties experienced by indigenous people and families, many of whom are seeking asylum from instances of violence, forced displacement from their ancestral territories, and socioeconomic deprivation” said Lola Marina Juan, Interim Director of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim (CMPI), in Omaha, Nebraska. “We urge Congress to defend indigenous people’s rights and all peoples rights to asylum. We also denounce the continued destruction of important Indigenous burial sites on borderlands and the environmental degradation this proposition would authorize.”

“It is deeply disappointing to see yet another attempt to decimate asylum protections in the United States being proposed. This proposal fundamentally undermines our values as a country and as individual communities who, as evidence has repeatedly demonstrated, WANT to welcome asylum seekers,” said Nili Sarit Yossinger, Executive Director at Refugee Congress. “Instead of laying down barriers, we should be finding ways to support and resource our communities to continue to do so, and to facilitate pathways for asylum seekers to work, to thrive, and to integrate. We strongly urge Congress to reject any further attempts to undermine our protection systems.”

“This extremist proposal is an outright assault on our asylum system and border communities. Our immigration laws and values are not bargaining chips to be traded away,” said Sarah Mehta, senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Throughout our history, people have come to the U.S. fleeing persecution and seeking a better life, and they’ve become integral to the fabric of our nation. Instead of doubling down on anti-immigrant proposals, our lawmakers should find the moral courage to invest in actual solutions and live up to our commitment to protect people seeking safety in the U.S.” “In exchange for funding the government, avoiding a shutdown and supporting our allies in Ukraine, Republicans are demanding that our country enact a host of permanent policy changes that would compound chaos and cruelty at the border and move us farther from real solutions to 21st century migration,” said Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice. “We need a wholesale modernization of our immigration system. That process needs to take place via regular order and involve a full-scale set of policy reforms, not just deterrence-only efforts being shoehorned into a short-term funding debate by a Republican Party that keeps proving itself unwilling or incapable partners in the basic functioning of government and our democracy.”

“The Republican party’s proposal is a racist attack on refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and Native Nations whose ancestral lands are crossed by the colonial U.S. border. Border walls, deterrence policies and inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable populations violate U.S. domestic and International law. This proposal will likely result in even more deaths than what we experienced during the previous administration, ” said Juanita Cabrera Lopez (Maya Mam Nation) and Executive Director of the International Mayan League. “In the case of Guatemala, it is an Indigenous majority country, and Indigenous Peoples are fleeing political instability and state sponsored violence. Today marks 38 days of peaceful resistance in Guatemala against a coup d’etat, resistance that was called by Indigenous Authorities. Our peoples and communities do not want to migrate, they are being violently displaced, persecuted and criminalized and have the right to seek safety. The Administration must be held accountable to all its human rights obligations.” “There is no defensible justification for the Republicans’ latest attack on the safety and well-being of vulnerable children. Their proposal would inflict grave harm on children by indefinitely detaining families, gutting basic protections for unaccompanied children, and eliminating critical oversight,” said National Center for Youth Law attorney Melissa Adamson, Flores counsel. “As co-counsel representing all children in federal immigration custody, we have already witnessed the profound physical and mental harm inflicted upon children and families detained in our country’s crowded and inhumane detention facilities. We urge Congress to reject this immoral proposal and instead support solutions that center children’s safety and well-being.” “As advocates for peace and nonviolence, AFSC opposes any increases in militarizing our nation’s border communities and funding to ICE and CBP,” said Imani Cruz, Global Policy Coordinator for Migration Justice with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). “We must love and welcome all members of our human family, regardless of circumstance. Every taxpayer dollar given to these agencies contributes to the racially-based harassment, invasions of privacy via surveillance, and threats of imprisonment experienced by people living in border communities and those seeking refuge. We demand that Congress move away from funding state violence in border communities to investing in education, healthcare, and supporting families.”

### Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity. 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

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