Graham Secure and Protect Act Would Neither Provide Security nor Protect the Vulnerable
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today condemned the Senate Judiciary Committee’s move to vote out of committee the Secure and Protect Act of 2019, a bill that seeks to codify Trump Administration policies undermining the U.S. asylum system. The bill, introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would effectively ban refugees from asylum protections and punish those that seek safety in the United States. Human Rights First strongly opposes the bill as well as Senator Graham’s decision this morning to break Senate and Judiciary Committee rules to force the bill through committee and prevent amendments.
“The bill is an extremist attack on U.S. laws protecting children and refugees. The Trump Administration has thus far decimated the U.S. resettlement and asylum systems through executive fiat, but this bill would essentially enact its cruel policies into law,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Senator Graham has taken Stephen Miller’s anti-asylum wish list and drafted a bill around it. If enacted, the provisions in this bill would deport children to trafficking and abuse, return refugees to persecution, strand them in highly dangerous countries, rush those who do seek asylum through rigged hearings, and prevent their release from immigration jails. The bill does nothing to address the humanitarian crisis at the border. Instead, it will increase the suffering of people fleeing persecution and violence, and make the situation worse.”
The Secure and Protect Act contains a number of policies that would endanger children and people seeking refuge from persecution. The bill would, among other harmful changes:
- Return refugees to their countries of persecution by imposing an unduly high screening standard—one that violates international refugee protection standards—to block many from even applying for asylum.
- Effectively ban Central American refugees from applying for asylum in the United States, imposing a flawed process requiring them to remain in countries where their lives are at risk, only permitting them to seek resettlement, which would be available only to limited number.
- Bar refugees from asylum if they do not and are not able to request asylum at a port of entry—in violation of U.S. treaty prohibitions against penalizing refugees for illegal entry or presence.
- Jail families and adult asylum seekers—regardless of the damage to children and traumatized asylum seekers—despite the fact that they overwhelmingly appear for asylum hearings and that more cost-effective and humane case management alternatives can be employed to support appearance.
- Subjects asylum seekers to rocket docket hearings that will make it impossible for many to secure the evidence and legal representation they need to win their cases.
Human Rights First notes that these proposed changes would blatantly violate the Refugee Convention, its Protocol and the arbitrary detention prohibitions in the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights.
“By banning, blocking and jailing people seeking asylum, these changes would—as do current Trump Administration refugee and asylum policies—set an appalling and counterproductive example for the rest of the world, including the small number of countries that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees,” added Acer. “The Senate must reject these radical notions and vote no on the bill.”
Human Rights First, in partnership with more than a dozen organizations with refugee and regional human rights expertise, recently released a new blueprint offering concrete steps to manage the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border and to address the damage the Trump Administration’s mismanagement of it has caused.