Biden, Jr. President of the United States White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20500 Dear President Biden: As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Refugee Convention, our 178 faith-based, humanitarian, legal services, immigration, and human rights organizations write to express profound disappointment that your administration’s actions are undermining refugee protections globally and violating refugee law at home. We are gravely concerned that the administration issued a new order this week to continue to block and expel asylum-seeking families and adults to life-threatening dangers, is escalating the use of fundamentally flawed expedited removal, has massively increased detention of adults seeking protection, and continues to make statements that undermine the right to asylum. We are horrified that your administration has embraced and doubled down on the Trump-era Title 42 policy by announcing it will use a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order, which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is wielding to continue to block and expel families and adults seeking refugee protection in violation of U.S. refugee law. This order, like its predecessors, uses public health as a pretext to circumvent U.S. refugee laws and treaties. We urge that you immediately end this travesty. Over the past six months, human rights researchers and journalists have identified over 3,200 kidnappings, torture, rape, and other attacks suffered by people expelled or blocked at the border under Title 42. Epidemiologists and public health experts have repeatedly denounced the Title 42 policy as lacking public health justification and actually threatening public health.
They have urged your administration to adopt rational, science-based measures that protect public health and people seeking safety in the United States.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has specifically called on the United States to “swiftly lift the public health-related asylum restrictions that remain in effect at the border and to restore access to asylum for the people whose lives depend on it, in line with international legal and human rights obligations.” In addition, many refugees will be deprived of their right to seek asylum in the United States as a result of DHS’s announcement that it will subject families to expedited removal (a process already being used against adult asylum seekers), despite its long history of due process failures.
The bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which monitored this process over many years, found that CBP officers failed in more than half of cases where monitors were present during interviews to take steps required under U.S. law to screen asylum seekers. In 15 percent of cases the Commission observed CBP improperly order asylum seekers deported who had indicated a fear of return. Not only do the deficiencies documented by USCIRF and others continue, but DHS has expanded the use of expedited removal.
The DHS announcement also suggests that families will be subjected to expedited removal for coming to the United States the “wrong way,” thereby inflicting expedited removal as a penalty for entry, which is impermissible under the Refugee Convention, and completely disingenuous, as people cannot generally seek asylum at U.S. ports of entry due to the administration’s failure to uphold refugee law at the border. Further, this expedited removal process reportedly relies on the use of the Electronic Nationality Verification Program (ENV) to quickly deport nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras without travel documents, which will likely further limit access to counsel. Tellingly, the DHS announcement makes no mention of the use of ENV or a 2019 DHS memo directing that people with imminent medical concerns should not be removed using ENV.
The administration’s plans to “fairly and efficiently” decide asylum cases, outlined in its new Blueprint, are also premised on the use of the fundamentally unjust expedited removal process. Fairness, due process and compliance with U.S. obligations to protect people seeking asylum should not be sacrificed for speed. Many of our organizations have also written to DHS to object to the sharp increase in detention of adults seeking asylum, which has accompanied the administration’s use of expedited removal, and urged that neither adults nor families be jailed while their asylum cases proceed. We also urge that your administration stop making statements that undercut the right to asylum and reinforce anti-asylum narratives. Earlier this year, many of our groups wrote to express concern about administration statements that risked bolstering the prior administration’s inhumane rhetoric. We continue to be deeply disappointed that some administration statements undermine the right to seek asylum, attempt to justify treating asylum seekers and migrants as threats to public health, and tout efforts to provide protection for people “closer to their homes” - a phrase often used in xenophobic rhetoric aimed at denying people protection in the United States. We were particularly dismayed by recent comments indicating that people “should not come” to the United States to seek asylum and that they could instead seek “asylum” from their home countries - a message that sends the wrong signal to rights-violating governments looking to slam their doors shut to the persecuted. Your administration must direct immediate actions to uphold U.S. refugee law and treaty obligations. Critical steps include restarting asylum processing along the border, ending policies that block people from seeking asylum at our ports of entry, providing prompt and fair asylum decisions, rejecting the use of expedited removal and immigration detention, and launching legal representation and community-based case support initiatives.
The United States helped draft the Refugee Convention in the wake of World War II, and, as a U.S. Senator, you were a co-sponsor of the U.S. Refugee Act, which affirmed in U.S. law the right to seek asylum.
The United States should lead by example by honoring its human rights commitments at home. Respectfully, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) The Advocates for Human Rights African Communities Together Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice Aldea - The People’s Justice Center Alianza Americas Alliance San Diego Al Otro Lado American Friends Service Committee Amnesty International USA ANNUNCIATION HOUSE, INC. Arizona Dream Act Coalition Arizona Justice For Our Neighbors Asian American Federation of Florida - South Region Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles Asian Caribbean Exchange Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO Asylum Access Asylum Access México (AAMX) A.C. Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) Austin Border Relief Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) BORDER ANGELS Border Kindness Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) Bridges Faith Initiative California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice El Calvario UMC and Immigrant Advocacy Center Cameroon American Council Catholic Charities Diocese of Monterey Watsonville Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. Children’s Defense Fund Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice Church World Service Center for Civic Policy Center for Democracy in the Americas Center for Gender & Refugee Studies Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) Center for Victims of Torture Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Inc. (CAB) Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible COOLJC Region 8 SJEREC Cooperation Operation Detention Watch Network Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries Divided Families Podcast Employee Rights Center Encompass Community Services-Head Start Espacio Migrante Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project Faiths for Safe Water Fellowship Southwest Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project Florida Asian Services Florida Asian Women Alliance Good Shepherd Lutheran Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA Haitian Bridge Alliance HANA Center Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program HIAS HIAS Pennsylvania Hope Border Institute Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative Human Impact Partners Human Rights First Human Rights Initiative of North Texas Human Rights Watch Immigrant and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of New York Immigrant Defenders Law Center Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project Immigration Advocacy & Support Center Immigration Equality Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI) Interfaith Welcome Coalition - San Antonio International Mayan League International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) International Rescue Committee Jane’s Due Process Japanese American Citizens League Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA Jewish Family Service of San Diego Justice Action Center Justice for Our Neighbors El Paso Justice for Our Neighbors Michigan The Justice Salon at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel Kids in Need of Defense Kino Border Initiative La Raza Community Resource Center Laredo Immigrant Alliance Latin America Working Group Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG) Leadership Conference of Women Religious Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) Madres e Hijos Mennonite Central Committee U.S. MERCIFUL REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT SERVICES Michigan Immigrant Rights Center Mijente Mississippi Center for Justice Motivation Motivates Mujeres Unidas y Activas National Council of Jewish Women National Education Association National Immigrant Justice Center National Immigration Law Center National Justice For Our Neighbors National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights National Partnership for New Americans Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty NOVA Friends of Refugees OCA South Florida Chapter OneAmerica OPAWL - Building AAPI Feminist Leadership in Ohio ORAM - Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration Owl & Panther Oxfam America Pacific Islander Health Board Peace Action Group of Plymouth Church Seattle, UCC Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California Phoenix Refugee Connections Physicians for Human Rights Project Blueprint Public Counsel Quixote Center Rainbow Beginnings La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) Refugee Congress Refugees International RITA - Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network Rocky Mountain Welcome Center San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium Sanctuary Santa Cruz Santa Cruz Welcoming Network SEIU United Service Workers West The Sidewalk School Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team Social Eco Education (SEE-LA) Sojourners Somali Association of Arizona South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) Southern Border Communities Coalition Southern California Immigration Project Southern Poverty Law Center Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice Tahirih Justice Center The Temple of the Waters Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors UndocuBlack Network Unitarian Universalist Refugee & Immigrant Services & Education Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Unite Oregon United We Dream Universidad Popular VECINA Voces Unidas We Are All America Welcoming America Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration Win Without War Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center Witness at the Border Women’s Refugee Commission Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights Youth Education & Development Programs.
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