Asylum is at Risk in the U.S. It’s Time to Take Action.

By Ayelet Parness

Asylum is at Risk in the U.S. It’s Time to Take Action.

Andrea, from Ecuador, holds her daughter Mia, nine months, at a migrant transition center for asylum seekers released from Border Patrol custody after crossing into the United States, on May 12, 2023 in Somerton, Arizona. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Ongoing negotiations around a supplemental funding bill that would provide aid to Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, refugee programs, and other vital humanitarian needs are being tied to border and asylum policies that could have a disastrous effect on people’s right to seek asylum in the U.S. for years to come, say advocates at HIAS and peer organizations.

The changes reportedly under discussion include placing a cap on asylum seekers, expanding detention and deportation of asylum seekers, creating a Title 42-like policy that would expel those entering the U.S. without the chance to ask for asylum, raising the bar for asylum seekers to prove the danger they are facing, codifying aspects of the asylum ban such as a third-country transit ban for those seeking protection at the border, and restricting asylum based on how asylum seekers enter the country.

“Each and every one of these policies is designed to deter people from pursuing their long-protected rights, under federal and international law, to seek safety in the United States,” said Vanessa Dojaquez-Torres, HIAS policy counsel. “But we’ve seen time and time again that deterrence policies do not work. They will only amount to a win for those who wish to revert to the most egregious policies of the previous administration, and for the human smugglers that would thrive with the reinstatement of these policies.”

These policies will result in many people who could otherwise be eligible for asylum being returned to the very danger they are trying to escape — in direct contradiction of federal and international law. Adding to the concern are reports that the White House is encouraging lawmakers to push this bill through immediately, even if it means making major concessions that would gut the U.S. asylum system and take away the few tools agencies have to manage the migration through our borders.

“We urge the White House to reject proposals that target people seeking safety in this country — policies that are not only extremely dangerous and morally abhorrent, but which have proven to be ineffective, and would be bad for America,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield in a statement. “These policies would hurt asylum seekers, harm our economy, and set a terrible example for the rest of the world at a time of global refugee crisis. Congress and the administration should consider humanitarian assistance and aid to Israel and Ukraine on their own strong merits, not use them to ram through the evisceration of U.S. asylum and immigration law.”

This is an urgent moment for asylum in the United States. For weeks, HIAS has been calling on the Biden administration and Congress to fund refugee and humanitarian programs without creating new restrictive policies for asylum seekers looking for a safe place to call home. It is vital that HIAS supporters join this call in this moment when the safety of asylum seekers hangs in the balance. Call or write your member of congress to ask them not to compromise on support for displaced people.

Tell Congress: Asylum Rights Aren’t a Bargaining Chip

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