HIAS Renews Call on Congress to Reject Anti-Asylum Proposals in Funding Negotiations

SILVER SPRING, Md. — HIAS is watching with deepening concern as Congress moves toward sacrificing fundamental asylum norms in its effort to reach a spending agreement that would ensure continued support for Ukraine.

“Reshaping asylum policy should never be tied to funding negotiations for aid to Ukraine,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “These are separate issues, both of which are vitally important and will have long-term implications for the United States. Connecting the fate of the U.S. asylum system with Ukraine defending itself from a full-scale invasion is a shortsighted political stunt. It will not only harm the people who are trying to seek safety, but also undermine U.S. leadership.”

Given the options that are reportedly under consideration by Congress, HIAS emphatically renews its call that Congress not codify any versions of third country transit bans, or any policies that would authorize the executive branch to turn away asylum seekers without a screening. “Both of these are the very measures that then-candidate Joe Biden vehemently criticized the Trump Administration for implementing,” Hetfield added.

HIAS also asserts that this is not the time, without hearings or evidence, to ram through changes to the asylum screening standards or the president’s use of parole authority.

“Under no circumstances should aid to Ukraine be held hostage to U.S. immigration and border policies,” Hetfield said.

“As a Jewish humanitarian organization that was founded by people who were forced to flee simply because of their faith and ethnicity, HIAS stands against measures that would slam the door on people attempting to find safety, just as our own families did,” Hetfield continued. “We recognize that the measures up for consideration now will not reduce the number of people coming to U.S. borders. Instead, they will create uncertainty and increased danger, and bring us no closer to meaningful asylum reform.”

Hetfield added, “Congress and the administration should both instead turn their collective attention towards supporting robust funding to expedite the processing of asylum seekers. The administration urgently needs funding to help enforce our immigration laws. That can only be done with an increased number of asylum officers and immigration judges who can quickly differentiate between those who qualify for legal status and should stay in the country, and who should be removed.”

Hetfield concluded, “Congress must also invest in reducing the extreme backlog of work authorization applications. Otherwise, asylum seekers will continue to be unable to support themselves and contribute to the U.S. economy at a time when the nation has millions of job openings and needs more workers to fill them.”

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