HIAS Opposes House Bill That Would Revive Failed Border Policies

SILVER SPRING, Md. — HIAS strongly opposes the Border Security and Enforcement Act of 2023 being marked up in the House Judiciary Committee today, and is urging committee members to reject any attempt to address challenges at the U.S.-Mexico border with draconian steps that would deny basic protections to people seeking asylum.

The broad legislation would further restrict asylum at the southern border, roll back protections for unaccompanied minors, and increase the use of family detention, among other harmful and counterproductive proposals. In addition, the bill would codify the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program — and would also keep Title 42 in place, even as the federal government is set to end the measure next month when the Covid public health emergency is lifted. Title 42, a World War II-era health measure, has led to more than two million expulsions of asylum seekers since it was invoked in March of 2020.

“As a Jewish organization founded to help people fleeing persecution, HIAS adamantly opposes the Border Security and Enforcement Act of 2023,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right, and offering asylum to people at your border who need it is an obligation of all countries, including the United States. This legislation would return us to the days of the Second World War, when countries freely turned refugees away at their borders. That is unacceptable. Congress needs to resource a system that can efficiently and fairly determine who does and does not need asylum, instead of putting asylum out of reach for people who are fleeing for their lives.”

HIAS has for years opposed policies that force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico during their immigration court proceedings, as well as measures that shut down processing at the border. Last summer, HIAS welcomed the news that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was ending MPP, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Biden Administration had not violated federal immigration law with its decision to terminate the program. “At a time of a global refugee crisis, it would be reprehensible for Congress to resurrect the failed and cruel policy of ‘Remain in Mexico,’” pushing asylum seekers back into danger before hearing their claim,” Hetfield said.

“We renew our call on Congress to work with the administration to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that will not only address border security, but will also ensure that there are safe, efficient and legal channels for immigrants and asylum seekers.”

Among its specific recommendations, HIAS has called on policymakers to increase funding to reduce the asylum backlog, expand asylum seekers’ access to legal counsel, and to use detention only for those who pose a serious public safety threat.


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