Human Rights First Honors World Refugee Day

WASHINGTON – On World Refugee Day, Human Rights First recognizes both the enormous hardships that displaced people around the world continue to face and their remarkable resilience in pursuit of safety. Refugees are essential members of communities across the United States. Human Rights First calls on the U.S. government to uphold and defend U.S. refugee law and international treaty commitments, treat asylum seekers at our borders and within the United States with dignity and fairness, and restore and revitalize U.S. refugee resettlement efforts.

“While political opposition and the courts have stymied efforts to restart asylum at the border, uphold refugee law, and restore U.S. leadership in protecting the human rights of refugees, the administration’s inertia and mistaken policy choices have undermined asylum and endangered asylum seekers,” said Michael Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First.  “At the same time, we have witnessed some movement in the processing of people forced to flee from Ukraine and Afghanistan. Refugees fleeing danger and persecution, whatever the color of their skin or the country they come from, deserve the protections of asylum. We will continue our work to defend asylum and welcome people in need of refuge.”

In the past few months:

  • U.S. courts have blocked the Biden administration from rescinding the use of Title 42, which has barred asylum seekers from entering the United States and expelled others to Mexico, Haiti, and other countries refugees have fled. Human Rights First has published research that shows the devastating harms of this policy, including over 10,000 reports of kidnapping, murder, torture, rape, and other violent attacks against migrants and asylum seekers blocked in or expelled to Mexico due to the Title 42 policy just since January 2021. Breen has spoken at a number of public and press events detailing our opposition to the use of this policy to bar asylum seekers from this country and calling for our asylum laws to be upheld and applied without discrimination.
  • The Biden administration re-implemented “Remain in Mexico,” after a court order, stranding thousands of asylum seekers in danger at the U.S.- Mexico border.  Since 2019, Human Rights First has represented asylum seekers subject to the policy and issued a series of human rights reports and factsheets documenting the harms inflicted by this policy and in opposition to its reimplementation.
  • The Biden administration has provided Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Ukrainians who have fled the Russian invasion of that country, Haitians and Afghans, and finally for Cameroonians in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis and armed conflicts in the country. Human Rights First has celebrated these protections. At the same time, Human Rights First and immigrant rights organizations have repeatedly called for TPS designations for several countries from Africa and Central America that meet the statutory basis for designation. Because TPS is by definition temporary, we are also continuing to advocate for an Afghan Adjustment Act to provide permanent protections for at-risk Afghans in the United States.
  • The Department of Homeland Security and Department of State announced that Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. military and the Afghan government or were targeted by the Taliban would not be unjustly denied U.S. protections due to unduly broad provisions of immigration law. While we have not seen the implementation memo, we will analyze it when published and assist attorneys representing at-risk Afghans with their asylum and immigration cases.

From researching at the U.S.-Mexico border, representing asylum seekers throughout the country, collaborating with Afghan-American community leaders, engaging with human rights defenders at the Polish border, to bringing litigation in courts and advocating on Capitol Hill, our work has shown us the strength and bravery it takes for refugees to make the life-changing decision to seek protection.

It is time they are provided with the dignity they deserve and the legal protections they are owed under U.S. and international law, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Protocol

World Refugee Day is observed on June 20 of every year; it is a day designated by the United Nations to honor refugees around the globe and celebrate the courage of people who have been forced to flee their home countries to escape conflict or persecution.


Published on September 19, 2022


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Urge Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act