Senate Must Reject Funding Deal That Threatens Asylum Protections, HIAS Says
Feb 4, 2024
SILVER SPRING, Md. — HIAS strongly condemns the Senate’s proposal to radically alter U.S. border and asylum policies and calls on lawmakers to approve humanitarian assistance provisions after they’ve been disentangled from changes that would eviscerate U.S. asylum law.
“While we recognize that there are undeniable challenges at our southern border, this so-called Senate deal would do nothing to alleviate that pressure and would undermine asylum protections for people fleeing for their lives,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “The United States needs to stop trying to patch up our broken immigration and asylum system, and instead enact comprehensive immigration reform so that asylum is no longer the only available legal pathway for people coming to the United States to fill jobs that Americans will not take. The Senate bill would undermine U.S. asylum law, endangering people attempting to seek protection in this country during an unprecedented global displacement crisis. Instead of making our nation safer and leading by the power of our example, this bill would make it almost impossible for people to access asylum, while at the same time creating uncertainty and chaos.”
The proposed changes in this bill include border expulsions tied to the number of individuals seeking entry, dramatically restricting screening standards for asylum seekers, and expediting asylum claims to such an extent that many asylum seekers will not be able to access counsel or adequately represent themselves in a life-or-death process.
“Ignoring the protection and safety needs of northbound migrants will not make them disappear,” Hetfield said. “Lawmakers should be focused on comprehensive immigration reform to enact long-term solutions to address the issues we see both at the border and in cities around the country that are receiving migrants.”
HIAS emphasizes that this deal remains unacceptable even though it includes some policies the organization has long advocated for — among them expedited work permits for certain asylum seekers; and provisions from the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would put thousands evacuated after the fall of Kabul on a pathway to permanent legal status.
“We reject the effort to attach these essential measures to poison-pill asylum restrictions — a political move that cynically pits Afghan evacuees against asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border,” Hetfield added. “It is wrong for lawmakers to link these issues now, just as it is inappropriate to tie these proposed border restrictions to aid for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine, which should be evaluated on their own merits.”
“We urge Senators to vote no on this bill, and urge members of the House to do the same if similar legislative proposals make it to the House floor,” Hetfield concluded.