Our current refugee and asylum systems were created in response to the horrific failure of the U.S. to accept Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, and instead turning them away.
Yet currently, the White House and Senate Democrats are considering mass deportations and destroying asylum access in exchange for passing a funding bill for military aid to Israel and Ukraine, in ongoing negotiations with Senate Republicans. This deal has the potential to shut out families and people seeking safety through asylum, as well as deport undocumented residents across the United States.
It is utterly dystopian that our elected officials are attempting to trade away the human rights of immigrants in exchange for passing military funding to Israel, which they will use to bomb even more Palestinian civilians. The Quixote Center issued a statement last week denouncing the negotiations and reaffirming our solidarity with all vulnerable, marginalized, and Black and Brown communities. Our neighbors, friends, and family members are not disposable, not at the U.S. border nor in Palestine.
The talks are ongoing and the exact policies have yet to be finalized, but what advocates know about the measures that the White House and Senators are considering in their negotiations is that they are cruel and draconian. Here are several major proposals we’re concerned about:
Reviving Title 42: The Biden administration has proposed bringing back rapid expulsions similar to Title 42, granting the federal government the power to shut down the asylum process anytime for nearly any reason. Essentially, migrants could be removed back to their home countries without due process. The horrors of Title 42 are well-documented, as it left migrants and their families stranded at the border, forced them into overcrowded camps, and exposed them to gang violence and death.
Codifying the asylum ban into law: This would disqualify people for asylum if they crossed through a “third” country on their way to the U.S. border without 1) applying for asylum and 2) getting denied, effectively disqualifying the vast majority of people from asylum protections. Most migrants must cross multiple countries before reaching the U.S. border, and the asylum process in Mexico and Central American countries is either extremely backlogged or nonexistent.
Fast-track deportations: Migrants in “expedited removal” can be quickly deported without an immigration hearing before a judge. When Title 42 ended, the Biden Administration expanded the use of expedited removal to families apprehended at the border; this would expand it even further. Now any undocumented person already in the United States, regardless of how long they have lived here, could be swept up for these fast-tracked deportation proceedings. Like under the Trump administration, this would threaten undocumented migrants regardless of where or for how long they have lived in the U.S.1
Mandatory detention: The White House has also proposed that virtually all asylum seekers apprehended at the border must be detained, including families, which in practice could lead to family separation. Incarcerating people simply for seeking safety is inhumane, costly, and ineffective.
Together, these proposals would effectively shut down asylum for vulnerable people seeking safety, create further chaos at the border, and threaten undocumented communities across the nation. In addition to violating international law, which bars nations from returning people to where they may face persecution and irreparable harm, the policies proposed in these negotiations completely dishonor our historic and moral duty to welcome people fleeing from danger.
Even officials with the Department of Homeland Security have warned that these restrictions could be disastrous, stating that Title 42 was ineffective and that they would not have the capacity to detain so many immigrants and families.
On Wednesday, I joined my other immigration advocates at a press conference with Hispanic and Progressive members of Congress, who have come out strongly against these attacks on asylum. Members of the Hispanic Caucus are outraged that these negotiations are taking place without a single Latino lawmaker at the table, despite consistently leading the call for immigration reform.
As Congressional negotiations are likely to drag into the new year, now is the moment to show Congress that asylum is sacred, and must be protected. Click HERE to send a message to your Senators.
You can click HERE to send a Christmas card to the White House to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.