‘A Sour Deal’: Congress Must Protect the Right to Seek Asylum and Reject Supplemental Funding Proposal

February 5, 2024
For Immediate Release
Contact: [email protected]  

MIAMI, FL—Yesterday, after months of closed-door negotiations, a small group of Senators released the bill text for proposed legislation that would gut the U.S. asylum system in exchange for short-term foreign aid funding. Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) strongly opposes the proposed changes to asylum and border policy announced over the weekend as part of the ongoing Congressional budget negotiations and urges the Senate to vote down this harmful legislation.

Among the most troubling provisions, the proposed legislation attempts to manage the increased number of migrants entering the U.S. along the southern border by creating an emergency expulsion authority which would allow or in some cases mandate that immigration officials expel all individuals encountered between ports of entry when border encounters reach certain levels. This authority mirrors that of the Title 42 policy under which expelled asylum seekers and other migrants were blocked from seeking protection in the United States and faced extremely high levels of kidnapping, rape, torture and other violence upon expulsion to Mexico.

Additionally, the bill proposes a complete restructuring to the processing of asylum seekers, including heightening the standard of proof for preliminary asylum screenings; requiring asylum officers to apply certain bars to asylum at the initial screening phase; and creating a new, fast tracked processing system in which individuals and families are placed on electronic surveillance and scheduled for a “protection determination interview” within 90 days of release, while simultaneous eliminating all judicial review in these cases.

Attempts to expand non-detained preliminary fear screenings while curtailing due process protections must be rejected—any process in which life or death decisions are being made must, at a bare minimum, provide an opportunity for judicial review,” said Shalyn Fluharty, Executive Director of Americans for Immigrant Justice. While the proposed legislation does include some welcome provisions, such as appointed legal counsel for unaccompanied children and individuals deemed unable to represent themselves, and numerous provisions in relation to expanding access to legal permanent residence status to certain groups, including our Afghan Alliesthese sweeteners cannot cure a sour deal. We must safeguard protections for all people seeking safety and opportunity in the United States, not just a select few.

We are witnessing an unprecedented crisis of global displacement and insecurity that requires a comprehensive approach aimed at addressing the root causes of migration, increasing and streamlining lawful pathways for migration and strengthening our strained U.S. asylum system,” said Cindy Woods, National Policy Counsel at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “The changes to asylum and border processing included in the supplemental funding bill would do nothing more than sow havoc at the Southern Border, return vulnerable individuals back into harm’s way, and fundamentally deny due process to asylum seekers in the United States.”

The Senate is expected to bring the bill to a preliminary vote on Wednesday, February 7, 2024.