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The Advocates Condemns Proposed Asylum Ban, which Violates Law, Risks Harm to Countless Lives

February 22, 2023

Minneapolis, MN

The Advocates for Human Rights calls on the Biden administration to immediately rescind its proposal that dramatically restricts access to asylum. The proposed regulation would circumvent international and domestic legal obligations and punish people for exercising their right to seek asylum at the southern border.

"The Advocates for Human Rights reminds the Biden administration that seeking asylum is a lawful pathway under U.S. and international law for people to seek protection when forced to flee. We know from our 40 years of work that people forced to flee do not have the luxury of choosing certain routes or manners of entry. This is why international treaties and federal law make clear that asylum protections cannot be conditioned on a certain manner of entry or restricted by the route an individual takes." said Executive Director Robin Philips.

The proposed rule targets people seeking asylum at the southern border. The asylum ban is a fundamental departure from how our life-saving asylum system should work and is reminiscent of moments in our nation's history when we turned away refugees to their death. 

"By creating this transit ban, the United States will deny asylum to people like me," said Bridget Chigunwe, Board Member at The Advocates for Human Rights. "After I was detained in Zimbabwe, I had to flee. I could not have obtained a visa or safely flown out of my country because the government would have stopped me, and I knew I would be targeted if I waited another moment to leave my country even if I could qualify for a U.S. visa. I fled across the border to Botswana, then to South Africa, then flew to Panama and finally reached the U.S. border after miles on foot. Asylum saved my life. Now I am enrolled in school, can work without discrimination, and worship freely."

"The administration cannot sidestep U.S. obligations under international and domestic refugee law simply by pointing to the availability of some narrow alternative pathways that it finds more politically desirable," said Robin Phillips, "The proposed rules undermine the very purpose of asylum." The regulation:

·       Seeks to deny access to asylum to people who are unable to get a passport from the country they are fleeing, who are unable to wait for visa applications to be processed, who do not have someone to sponsor them, or who are unable to afford plane tickets, unless they can prove they sought asylum and waited for a decision in countries through which they transited.

·       Violates unambiguous federal statuteupheld by federal courts, that authorizes people to seek asylum at or in the United States regardless of the route or manner of entry.

·       Ignores the lack of accessible, safe, orderly and fair migration pathways available under existing U.S. law.

"We are also deeply concerned by the administration's rush to rulemaking," continued Phillips. The administration provided only a 30-day public comment period and has stated its intent to have new rules online by May 11, when the covid public health emergency is scheduled to end. "The administration must also follow the law and give due consideration to comments submitted by the public before it can issue a final rule. Even then, the rule must pass muster under judicial review that is sure to follow. The Advocates will remain steadfast in ensuring due process and the right to seek asylum, as we have for the past 40 years." concluded Philips.