Human Rights First Decries Biden Administration’s Border Proclamation

WASHINGTON  – Today, the Biden Administration announced its issuance of a proclamation and joint Departments of Justice and Homeland Security interim final rule to bar people who cross the border outside ports of entry from asylum. This policy will unlawfully block refugees from seeking asylum and return them to persecution in violation of U.S. asylum law, the Refugee Convention, and obligations of non-refoulement

Eighty-five years after the United States turned away refugees fleeing Nazi Germany onboard the MS St. Louis, the President has invoked authority under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to turn away adults and families with children, including many who are seeking asylum, who cross the southern border between official ports of entry after an arbitrary daily encounters limit has been met. This same statutory authority was unlawfully used by the Trump administration to attempt to block refugees from many African and Muslim-majority countries from seeking safety in the United States and to similarly attempt to suspend the entry of asylum seekers who crossed between U.S. ports of entry. All of these attempts by the prior administration were ruled unlawful by federal courts.  

“Playing politics with the lives of people seeking asylum is just wrong. Turning away people fleeing persecution and repression is the opposite of U.S. leadership. The policy will endanger lives, fuel anti-immigrant fear-mongering, and set a terrible example for countries around the world that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection. “Not only does this policy trample on U.S. refugee law and treaties, it will be ineffective and inhumane. Under both the Trump and Biden administrations, we have seen again and again how policies that attempt to override U.S. asylum laws simply cause more disorder, dysfunction and damage to people seeking protection. The best path forward is always the one that upholds values and human rights.”  

Human Rights First opposed the previous administration’s discriminatory Muslim and African bans that caused immense harm to vulnerable people seeking protection including LGBTQI+ refugees. The organization condemns the current administration’s abuse of 212(f) presidential authority, and issuance of a new rule, to bar access to asylum and revive policies similar to the prior administration’s entry ban and Title 42 policies. Eliminating crucial safeguards necessary to identify asylum seekers, and instead expecting asylum seekers, who often don’t speak English, to somehow “manifest” their fear of return to harm will endanger at-risk asylum seekers including rape survivors, people who do not speak English or Spanish, LGBTQ asylum seekers, politic dissidents, and victims of trauma or torture. 

Human Rights First’s research has repeatedly documented that policies initiated by the Trump administration, and now by the Biden administration, that turn away people seeking asylum have led to massive human rights abuses and have compounded, rather than fixed, challenges at the border. For example, Human Rights First issued 17 reports documenting the harms caused by the Title 42 expulsions policy and tracked reports of 13,480 asylum seekers and migrants targeted for kidnappings, torture, sexual assault and other human rights abuses in Mexico due to this policy during the first two years of the Biden administration. Our organization has also extensively documented the human rights abuses resulting from the Biden administration’s Circumvention of Lawful Pathways  “asylum ban” rule in effect since May 12, 2023. That policy and related restrictions have already stranded asylum seekers in danger for months as many struggle to try to secure CBP One appointments for ports of entry, and others are denied equal access to these appointments.   

Instead of more bans and bars that fuel anti-immigrant fear-mongering, Human Rights First continues to urge the Biden Administration and Congress to adopt humane and equitable solutions that strengthen the asylum system and manage migration effectively. Key steps include properly funding asylum adjudications and the immigration courts, expanding access to ports of entry for the many vulnerable asylum seekers who are currently unable to access ports promptly and safely, and continuing to strengthen parole initiatives, refugee resettlement and refugee protection in the region.  

To speak with Eleanor Acer or other experts at Human Rights First, please contact [email protected]


Published on June 4, 2024


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