Human Rights First Condemns Governor Abbott’s Dangerous & Illegal Ploy to “Return” Asylum Seekers and Other Migrants to Ports of Entry

Calls on U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to take action to protect our immigration system.

WASHINGTON, DC — Human Rights First expresses its outrage in response to Governor Abbott’s lawless authorization of the Texas National Guard to arrest and send asylum seekers and other immigrants to the border purportedly to “defend against violations of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“Human Rights First urges Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to immediately direct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain their mandate of enforcing federal immigration law and avoid any actions to enforce or cooperate with this unilateral action by the State of Texas,” said Kareem Shora, Human Rights First Executive Vice President for Policy and Programs and former DHS official. “DHS has well-established authorities to enforce immigration law. This action by the State of Texas undermines that authority and the accountability and oversight it affords.”

“Governor Abbott’s Executive Order is nothing more than a cynical and callous ploy to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling last week in Biden v. Texas, which affirmed the Biden Administration’s authority to dissolve the illegal “Remain in Mexico” policy,” said Licha Nyiendo, Chief Legal Officer of Human Rights First. “By scapegoating immigrants and using the state police power to further his nativist political agenda, the Governor acts no better than other authoritarians around the world who hold themselves above the rule of law. This action is part of a greater, coordinated effort to mainstream extremist conspiracy theories and criminalizes people of color.”

Many individuals and families crossing the border into Texas are people fleeing persecution and searching for refuge in the United States. They continue to be blocked from requesting asylum at U.S. ports of entry due to the Title 42 policy, as Human Rights First has repeatedly documented, including in a June 2022 report. Recent government data shows that, in May 2022, over 25 percent of individuals encountered by the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas sectors were from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – countries from which many refugees are fleeing political repression and other forms of persecution. The United States must ensure safe and legal pathways for asylum seekers to make their claims.

“The blatant abuse of our service members to pursue extremist, anti-American policies is shameful. State and local officials are manipulating the military for their political gain, which will come with a heavy cost. Over the last year, members of the Texas National Guard have unfairly borne the burden of the state’s leadership who view them as their political props,” said Chris Purdy, Army veteran and Director of Veterans for American Ideals and Outreach at Human Rights First. “Forcing soldiers to target those seeking the protection our nation’s laws afford asylum seekers contradicts the ethos all members of the military hold. We swore an oath to uphold the constitution and advance American values like freedom and human rights. Gov. Abbott’s move today will force service members to violate that oath and degrade their service.”


Published on July 7, 2022


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