• Press Release

Congress Urged to Not Gut Asylum System

December 8, 2023

A migrant family watches the sunset while waiting to be accounted for and taken to a border patrol processing facility after crossing the Rio Grande into the U.S. on June 21, 2021 in La Joya, Texas. A surge of mostly Central American immigrants crossing into the United States has challenged U.S. immigration agencies along the U.S. Southern border.
(Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
In response to Congress and the White House negotiating the inclusion of nationwide expedited removal and a gutting of the U.S. asylum system in the federal supplemental funding bill, Amy Fischer, Director of Refugee and Migrant Rights with Amnesty International USA, made the following statement:

“The policy proposals being negotiated are extreme. Migrants aren’t pawns in Washington’s political game. Congress and the White House are wrong to even consider gutting U.S. asylum law.

“Joe Biden vowed to return to sane immigration policies, but as President, he has repeatedly pulled from President Trump’s playbook of cruelty.  Nationwide expedited removal is a policy that former President Trump tried, and codifying it in law is an extreme backpedaling on the rights of all immigrants and people seeking safety in the United States. Such policies are indisputably intended to deter asylum seekers from exercising their human right to seek asylum in the United States, as well as to punish and compel those who did seek protection to give up their asylum claims.

“We have said it before, and we will say it again: people have the human right to seek asylum – without discrimination of any kind. The Biden administration and Congress must restore access to asylum in line with international law and standards, not gut it.”

Amnesty International USA is deeply concerned about the proposals reportedly on the negotiating table:

  • Raising the standard for credible fear in asylum screenings would undoubtedly result in the United States violating the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits a country from removing people seeking safety back to a country where they are at risk of persecution. Asylum seekers are often at their most vulnerable during their credible fear process, and a change of the standard would not screen out frivolous claims, but rather punish the most vulnerable, the most traumatized, and the most unable of articulating their claims. Credible fear interviews frequently happen while individuals are detained and unrepresented by counsel.
  • Creating an arbitrary cap on asylum during a period in which the world is facing its largest displacement crisis is a cruel closing of the doors to a country that has long been a beacon of humanitarian protection. Further, people have the human right to seek asylum. Such a cap would violate this fundamental principle by denying asylum to people with credible claims simply because a number may have been reached. The United States must instead respond to this moment of mass displacement with funding and policies of welcome, to respond to the crisis with policies that are humane rather than those that hurt.
  • A transit ban or third-country agreement is simply a mechanism for the United States to skirt its obligations to provide asylum for people seeking safety. Further, Amnesty International has documented time and time again that for many people on the move throughout the Western Hemisphere, there is truly nowhere safe. This is particularly true for Black, Indigenous, and other racialized people seeking safety.
  • Subjecting immigrants across the United States to nationwide expedited removal – a policy that would allow DHS to round up migrants and subject them to mandatory detention and fast track deportation processes is an extreme proposal that risks the safety and security of all immigrants in the United States.
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