News » CGRS Urges Inter-American Commission to Oppose Asylum Ban

CGRS Urges Inter-American Commission to Oppose Asylum Ban

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Mar 10, 2023

Today Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during a civil society meeting on the human rights situation in the United States. Bookey called on the Commission to speak out against the Biden administration’s proposed rule imposing a near-complete ban on asylum.

The proposed rule would bar asylum for anyone who passes through another country en route to the U.S. border and does not apply for protection there first, regardless of whether doing so is safe or feasible. Only asylum seekers who manage to schedule an appointment via the government’s virtually unusable CBP One smartphone app would be able to bypass the ban. A similar policy under the Trump administration was repeatedly struck down by the courts as unlawful. The Biden administration’s version of the ban violates U.S. laws and treaty obligations and, if implemented, would result in the wrongful deportation of refugees to countries where they face grave harm.

“The U.S. approach flies in the face of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection adopted at last year’s Summit of the Americas by offloading our protection obligations onto our neighbors to the south,” Bookey stated before the Commission today. “Former presidents of Costa Rica and Colombia have spoken out against the proposed rule precisely because it will increase the burden on their countries that have already shouldered a disproportionate share of refugees traveling in the region.”

“Last weekend, I spoke with more than 200 asylum seekers languishing in Tijuana, Mexico,” Bookey added. “None had been able to successfully schedule an appointment for themselves or their entire family, with many families forced to separate to improve their chances. Two examples illustrate the scenario. A Haitian couple showed up at the border with an appointment notice that did not list their young child; a border official callously told them their only options were to send one parent through, forgo the appointment, or leave the child behind. They have yet to be able to reschedule the family together.”

“A Cuban family missed their scheduled appointment because, while waiting in Mexico, they were kidnaped and held for ransom during which time the kidnappers repeatedly raped the mother. Unable to reschedule, the family fears the mother—who is also suffering from advanced cervical cancer—will die before they have the opportunity to reunify with family in the United States.”

“As this body has done before, we urge the Commission to express its concern regarding this policy undermining asylum as a violation of international law,” Bookey concluded. “Policies such as these must be universally rejected if the right to seek asylum is to have any worth beyond the written word.”

Following Bookey's testimony, Commissioner Joel Hernández García, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, expressed concern that the Biden administration's limited new legal pathways – including its narrow parole program for nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – would be used to supplant the legal right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bookey’s full testimony can be read here.