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Congress Must Reject Deal to Destroy Asylum

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Feb 04, 2024

Following months of secretive, closed door negotiations, this evening three senators finally released the text of a legislative deal that would revive failed Trump-era policies and decimate the U.S. asylum system, in exchange for a one-time foreign aid package. Amid reports that senators intend to vote on the deal this week, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) urges lawmakers and the White House to reject this radical and unworkable bill, which would exacerbate the humanitarian and operational challenges at our southern border and endanger the lives of families, children, and adults fleeing persecution.

“The rights of people seeking asylum must be protected, not traded away like political bargaining chips,” said CGRS Legal Director Blaine Bookey. “While the White House has touted this deal as a ‘tough’ move to address challenges at our southern border, anyone who has been paying attention to asylum policy in recent years sees it for what it is: a shameful attempt at political posturing that treats refugees’ lives as expendable. The government has tried these ‘tough’ policies before. They were an abject failure by every metric, only creating chaos, dysfunction, and profound human suffering at our nation’s doorstep. If this bill passes, it will mark a complete abdication of the United States’ legal and moral commitments to refugees and a stunning betrayal of President Biden’s promise to restore our ‘historic role as a safe haven’ for those escaping persecution. It will amount to a death sentence for many people seeking refuge in the United States. We implore the Biden administration to reverse course, and we urge lawmakers to oppose this deal.”

Among a slew of anti-asylum proposals, the Senate bill would resuscitate a deadly policy of mass expulsions at the border - denying refugees their right to seek asylum with no due process whatsoever. Under a previous iteration of this policy, designed by white nationalist Stephen Miller and known as Title 42, people fleeing persecution were rapidly expelled to conditions where they faced grave harm, in violation of international law.

The legislative proposals under consideration have been roundly condemned by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as hundreds of civil and human rights organizations, LGBTQ+ rights groups, children's advocacy organizations, and experts in refugee and human rights law.