Rights Groups Oppose Biden Plan to Resurrect Asylum Bans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Biden administration’s recent announcement of a plan to issue a proposed rule that would resurrect the Trump administration’s approach of denying refugees asylum due to their transit routes or manner of entry, 292 civil, human rights and immigrant rights groups including Human Rights First today sent a joint letter to President Biden condemning this approach and urging his administration to adjust course and not proceed with this proposed rulemaking.

The letter states, in part:

“”This announcement marks a full-throated embrace of policies initiated by the prior administration, which by your own description “contravened our values and caused needless human suffering.” We call on you not to break your campaign promise to end restrictions on asylum seekers traveling through other countries. The Biden administration must adjust course immediately and abandon the misguided pursuit of an asylum ban. We urge you not to issue the NPRM on the asylum ban.

 Your administration’s announcement of plans to establish a presumption of asylum ineligibility for individuals who do not use “established pathways to lawful migration” and do not apply for protection in countries of transit advances the agenda of the Trump administration, which repeatedly sought to impose similar asylum bans. Word-smithing, tweaks and spin do not change this reality.”

The joint letter to President Biden and relevant members of his cabinet details how such asylum bans breach domestic laws and international treaties, defy the administration’s professed commitments to racial equity, separate families and threaten the safety of those seeking asylum.

The letter’s signatories include a diverse coalition of prominent labor, LGBTQ, faith and civil rights groups. Signatories include ACLU, Amnesty International, CHIRLA, Community Change Action, FIRM Action, HIAS, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Human Rights First, Immigration Equality, Immigration Hub, Indivisible, International Mayan League, MoveOn, IRAP, IRC, NILC, National Immigrant Justice Center, PFLAG National, Refugee Council USA, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, UndocuBlack Network, UnidosUS and Welcome With Dignity.

“This letter sends a powerful signal to the Biden administration that it must abandon further pursuit of a policy that advances the inhumane and ineffective agenda of the Trump administration,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. “Leading civil, human, LGBTQ, Black-led, Indigenous, immigrant and refugee rights groups fought against the Trump administration’s agenda of denying asylum to people who are eligible for that protection, and expect the Biden administration to uphold human rights and its own commitments.”

When promulgated by the Trump administration, these bans were repeatedly struck down by federal courts for violating U.S. law. They also violated international treaty obligations, which uphold the principle of non-refoulement and generally prohibit the imposition of penalties based on manner of entry into the country of refuge. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) repeatedly condemned attempts to impose such bans.

Human Rights First issued a comprehensive report in 2020 on the harms inflicted by the Trump administration’s transit ban during the time that it was in effect, and this week issued a new backgrounder that details the damage that further pursuit of a resurrected asylum ban would inflict. The organization was also involved in various lawsuits that led federal courts to vacate the Trump administration’s asylum bans.

Press

Published on January 19, 2023

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