HIAS Decries Shutdown at the U.S.-Mexico Border

SILVER SPRING, Md. — HIAS decries the executive order introduced today by the Biden Administration, which would effectively seal the U.S.-Mexico border to people seeking safety.  Like the similar policies of the previous administration, it flies in the face of U.S. and international law, which guarantees the right to seek asylum for individuals fleeing violence and danger.

“In introducing this policy, the President is clearly responding to the political climate, rather than proposing solutions to address the actual challenges of today,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “Rather than fixing an antiquated immigration system that has been broken for decades, politicians are using anti-immigrant rhetoric to gain votes by stoking fear.  And increasingly, President Biden’s actions are implementing this anti-asylum rhetoric, rather than pushing for real solutions that are true to our values as a nation where immigrants and refugees have played such an important role.”

HIAS has a long history of opposing arbitrary and discriminatory policies that seal our borders to people fleeing for their lives. A century ago, we rallied against the Immigration Act of 1924 which imposed a quota based on national origin, which lasted for more than 40 years. And exactly eighty-five years ago we railed against the decision to turn away the M.S. St. Louis, and send 900 Jewish refugees back to Nazi Europe. These were amongst the most consequential moments in American Jewish immigration history. Today’s announcement is no less consequential.

“It was wrong then, and it is wrong now,” said Hetfield, “Silence and complicity isn’t the answer when today’s policies carry echoes of the darkest moments of our history.”

“The administration is layering on ineffective policy after ineffective policy,” said Naomi Steinberg, HIAS’ Vice President of U.S. Policy and Advocacy. “Shutting down the border to people seeking safety was the wrong choice during the previous administration and it will be just as wrong now.  This will benefit smugglers and traffickers, decrease security at the border, and do nothing to achieve the goal of a fair and functioning asylum process.”

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