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Welcome With Dignity Denounces Biden’s Latest Asylum Proposal

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

September 8, 2023



WASHINGTON DC - According to reports, the Biden administration is considering forcing migrant families to remain in Texas or other border communities as they undergo initial steps in their asylum cases, presumably in an effort to deter more families from seeking safety in the United States. The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign urges the Biden administration to abandon this proposal or any other efforts that limit migrant families’ right to travel. Rather than more policies that punish migrant families for seeking asylum, we implore the administration to uphold and protect the human rights of all people seeking safety. This means investing more resources to create a fair, humane, and orderly process for those seeking refuge at our border—not violating their freedom of movement, due process, or right to seek safety.


“Families should not be punished for seeking safety,” said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager of #WelcomeWithDignity. “No matter the cruelty they face in the process, people fleeing danger and persecution will always seek asylum – and have the legal right to do so. It is time for the Biden administration to work with the communities and organizations willing to find solutions that embrace America’s welcoming spirit.”


“Cruel. Unjust. Inhumane. These are words the White House has used to describe Governor Abbot’s anti-immigrant actions. And yet, today, we learn the Biden administration is considering plans to trap asylum seekers in Texas while subjecting them to expedited asylum processing,” said Lindsay Toczylowki, Executive Director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “Instead of allowing asylum seekers to go to the safest place for them — with their families or sponsors — this ill-fated plan would subject them to additional cruelty and obstacles to obtaining protection.”


“When people cross borders their human rights come with them. Politicians like Mayor Adams, Governor Abbott, and President Biden cannot continue playing games with the lives of thousands of children and families. Migrants are not hot potatoes. Cruel asylum policies and treating people as a burden has human consequences,” said Marisa Limón Garza, Executive Director of Las Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso Texas and Ciudad Juárez. “Realizing our values as a country is a collective lift, one that will make us stronger. At this moment it means using resources to treat people humanely, and reforming our legal immigration system to create more robust and orderly pathways to find safety and opportunity in the U.S. And it means dismantling the deadly barriers that kill and injure those on the move. Anything short of this, whether seeking to shirk this moral duty or worse actively imperil the safety of these migrants, is needlessly cruel and self-defeating.”


​​“The Biden Administration is continuing to shift further away from delivering a humane border policy and, instead, has opted to respond with cruel and inadequate policies,” said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso, Texas. “We urge our federal and state governments to instead focus on building welcoming infrastructure at our border to provide refugee children, mothers, and entire families with the necessary humanitarian, legal, and medical assistance they need.”


“Forcing families to remain in any one particular state is misguided and inhumane, and ineffective as a matter of policy,” said Efrén C. Olivares, Deputy Legal Director for Immigrant Justice at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We call on the Biden administration to do everything in its power to orderly and humanely process individuals and families seeking protection, respecting their rights under U.S. and international law. We must take our immigration system away from a deterrence-focused set of policies, and closer to the values we aspire to as a country — a place where anyone fleeing persecution or violence can find refuge and be treated with dignity."


“The goal of our asylum system is to protect people fleeing persecution and torture. People who are forced to leave their homes behind and make dangerous journeys to find safety should not be met with more barriers and cruelty,” said Kimiko Hirota, Policy Advisor of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Families seeking asylum deserve a dignified and fair process that allows them to prepare their cases where they can receive humanitarian and legal support. Just like other misguided attempts to deter, there is no evidence that trapping families in Texas will stop them from making the often impossible choice to flee their home countries. Instead, doing so would only sow more chaos at the southern border. We urge the administration to reconsider and invest in the communities already welcoming these families at the border and across the country.”


"Subjecting families to flawed expedited removal screenings rigged by the asylum ban will lead to the deportation of refugees to their countries of feared persecution without an opportunity to apply for asylum and present their case,” said Rebecca Gendelman, Senior Research and Policy Counsel at Human Rights First. “This sham process does not comport with U.S. refugee obligations. Reported plans to force families to remain in Texas while they undergo these screenings would further exacerbate this flawed process and punish people for seeking safety. The administration should instead welcome families and others seeking protection and work to provide fair and humane asylum adjudications, including by improving its Asylum Processing Rule (APR) to remove unrealistic timelines and eliminate the use of expedited removal in the APR."


“I am angry and frustrated. President Biden is forcing our asylum seeker families to stay in Texas while Governor Abbott is kicking them out is equally inhumane, and controlling. Our families just want to stay alive and live in peace,” said Fatima Saidi, National Campaign Director for We Are All America. “We need solutions that center dignity and human rights, not a perpetuation of draconian measures that violate people’s freedom of movement.”


“Restricting the liberty of families as part of an effort to speed up their deportations is cruel and unnecessary,” said Laurie Ball Cooper, U.S. Legal Director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “Instead of engaging in misguided attempts to deter people from seeking safety in the United States through anti-immigrant policies, the Biden administration must invest in making the asylum system more efficient and humane.”


"The Biden administration's proposal of punishing innocent asylum-seekers for seeking safety by forcing them to remain in border communities is not the answer to Governor Abbott's cruel mistreatment of migrant families," said the Rev. Nathan Empsall, Executive Director of Faithful America and a native Texan. "Both officials are treating vulnerable migrants as political pawns. Every migrant who comes across our border is a child of God and should be treated in such a way that honors their humanity and inherent dignity."


"Once again, the Biden administration is choosing expediency over a just process and human rights,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “This proposal, which would punitively trap asylum seeking families in a state that has consistently enacted and fought to uphold cruel and dangerous anti-immigrant policies while they go through an unjust expedited asylum process, is nothing more than a change of scenery to a fundamentally corrupt and wrong-headed approach to humanely managing migration flows at the border. Families seeking safety in the United States deserve to be welcomed with dignity, be reunited with their families and support systems, and have the opportunity to pursue their legal claims with the support of their families and communities. We know that deterrence-based policies are both cruel and ineffective. Families will come to the United States to seek protection, no matter how inhumanely our government decides to act because they have no other choice. They are fleeing for their lives. Instead of improving the situation at the border and upholding our obligation to offer a fair process to those seeking safety, this policy will harm parents and children and, by unnecessarily trapping people in a limited geographical area during their immigration process, it will also further strain humanitarian and legal services resources at the border. We urge the Biden administration to abandon this plan and instead focus on solutions that center and uphold migrants' basic human rights, including those to free movement and safety, and that honor our value of welcoming people seeking refuge in the United States."


The Biden Administration’s new plan to force families to remain in border communities while pushing them through expedited asylum processing is deeply disappointing. Families who risk their lives to seek safety do not choose to do so lightly. This proposed policy turns families into political pawns and is yet another misguided attempt to punish and deter asylum seekers,” said Cindy Woods, National Policy Counsel at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “All individuals, including families, who seek protection and safety in the United States deserve dignity and respect. Releasing families to sponsors, family-members and awaiting communities in the interior of the United States allows greater access to counsel, support systems, evidence, and resources to more effectively prepare to present their asylum claim.”


“The act of seeking safety is one marked by courage, grief, fear, and resilient hope for the future. Families seeking safety should be met with compassion and support, but this proposed plan from the Biden administration to limit asylum-seeking families’ right to travel does just the opposite,” said Danilo Zak, Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “This policy meets vulnerable families who are seeking safety with punishment, cruelty, and neglect; trapping them in spaces where they may not be able to access the support or meaningful due process needed to pursue their claims for protection.. We know that policies like this only create more harm. Rather than continue to participate in this self-defeating cycle, we urge the Biden administration to invest in a humane and just asylum system that upholds the dignity of those seeking safety. Anything less than that is woefully inadequate and unjust.”


“The Biden Administration has plans to restrict the fundamental right to travel freely throughout the United States simply to score political points. Against the backdrop of cruel unlawful policies that Texas is currently implementing, this move is transparently about punishing immigrants who come to the United States by purposely forcing them to remain in a state that is targeting them and violating their rights. It is past time for the Biden Administration to stop actively encouraging Texas’s actions and to reject policies of deterrence that are ineffective and inhumane,” said Sirine Shebaya, the Executive Director of the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG).


“We Franciscans had hoped for more compassionate, just policies for migrants from the Biden administration,” said Sister Marie Lucey, Associate Director of Franciscan Action Network (FAN). “We are very concerned to learn that the Administration may force migrant families to remain in border communities as they take initial steps in their asylum cases. Families who have undertaken treacherous travel to seek safety in the United States deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, not with policies halting their right to travel. As people of faith, who believe in the dignity and rights of all people, we urge the Administration not to enact punitive measures for migrant families, but to invest more resources to create a humane and orderly asylum process.”


“Biden’s plan to trap refugee families in Texas, one of the most xenophobic and racist states in the nation, a state where the governor though it fit to install literal razor wire traps in the middle of the river in order to kill refugees and deter them from crossing, ignores the reality on the ground – which is that CBP refuses to process refugees upon arrival at ports of entry. The refusal to process refugees at ports of entry upon arrival as required by Title 8 violates US federal law and our international treaty obligations,” said Nicole Elizabeth Ramos, Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project director. “The Biden Administration should not be in the business of punishing refugee families for attempting to enter the U.S. to save their lives knowing that CBP’s illegal conduct is what forces refugees to enter the country in between ports of entry and without inspection. The federal government can not create the problem of which it complains and then propose a solution that violates human rights. This action is akin to firefighters who engage in arson and then show up to play the hero and put out the flames. Apparently the Biden Administration thinks the American public and the international community is stupid enough to believe that this plan is legal or humane. We are definitely not.”


“Given that it litigated to end the horrific Remain in Mexico program, the Biden Administration is well aware of the additional harm these kinds of punitive deterrence measures inflict upon families seeking safety,” said Tasha Moro, Communications Director at Justice Action Center. Rather than implementing a system that facilitates en masse deportations, the Biden Administration must abandon all plans around a ‘remain in Texas’ program and work hand in hand with direct service organizations at the border to create more humane solutions that respect families’ freedom of movement as they are fleeing for their lives.”


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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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