Congress Must Reject Anti-Asylum Measures in Budget Proposals

SILVER SPRING, Md. — As Congress continues its work ahead of the November 17 deadline to prevent a partial shutdown of the federal government, HIAS is sounding the alarm about anti-asylum proposals that would be damaging not only for the people seeking safety, but also for communities around the United States, and for the nation’s historic leadership role when it comes to welcoming refugees.

“While we all hope that Congress will be able to avert a shutdown, we can’t allow vulnerable asylum seekers to become collateral damage in the political tug-of-war as lawmakers try to reach a compromise to continue funding critical services and secure aid for Ukraine,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “We are deeply concerned that some of the measures currently under consideration would be harmful not only for asylum seekers, but also for the cities working to welcome them, and for the country as a whole.”

Hetfield renewed HIAS’ call on Congress to reject the reintroduction of a third country transit ban and the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — also known as “Remain in Mexico” — along with the codification of Title 42. Other harmful provisions would restart construction of the ineffective and costly border wall, reduce safeguards for migrant children, and raise screening standards for asylum seekers in such a way that most applicants would be unlikely to qualify.

“These proposals would essentially eviscerate asylum protections in the U.S., sending people in need of protection back to countries where they would face imminent danger,” Hetfield continued. “As a Jewish humanitarian organization based on the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger, founded by a community all too familiar with displacement, HIAS considers these measures to be morally repugnant. They are also ineffective — historically, we have seen that blanket restrictions on legal pathways do nothing to dissuade people from fleeing toward our southern border. Those concerned with national security should support robust funding to expedite the processing of asylum seekers. We can’t enforce our immigration laws without asylum officers and other adjudicators to determine who qualifies for legal status.”

Hetfield added, “It is therefore essential for lawmakers to provide funding for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reduce the extreme backlog that faces when it comes to processing work authorization applications — one of the major obstacles for cities welcoming asylum seekers. If people who are eligible for work authorization can’t access it, they become an unnecessary burden on cities and states, instead of the benefit to our economy that they can and should be at a moment when the nation has millions of job openings and needs more workers to fill them.”

“The only way for Congress to achieve lasting solutions is to pass comprehensive immigration reform that creates an orderly and humane process for people seeking protection, in addition to measures to secure the border. But none of that is going to happen with these funding proposals.”

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