Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis While Protecting Asylum Seekers
(Updated March 25, 2020)
Amnesty International USA, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières USA, Human Rights First, Physicians for Human Rights, Refugees International, and Women’s Refugee Commission call on the Trump Administration to immediately rescind its policy of shutting the border to people seeking asylum in the United States. Turning back men, women and children seeking refuge violates U.S. refugee laws and treaty obligations and will only endanger more lives and will make all of us less safe. We also call upon Congress to deny the Administration’s request for over $800 million for facilities to detain asylum seekers and immigrants in conditions that contravene the recommendations of public health experts.
Banning Asylum Seekers Endangers Lives
Many unlawful and dangerous restrictions to seeking refuge along the southern border were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Remain in Mexico policy, the administration has already sent tens of thousands of people seeking refuge to some of the most dangerous parts of Mexico, where they are currently forced to live in unsafe, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions in open-air encampments and shelters that endanger their health and safety.
On March 20, the Trump administration announced a rule and accompanying order that purports to empower it to immediately turn back asylum-seekers without affording them any legal process whatsoever for an initial period of 30 days. While the administration cited risks of rapid transmission in the open-air encampments abutting the border as justification for this extreme new measure, those risks are a reason to parole people into the United States, not relegate even larger numbers of people to similarly dangerous conditions. This even broader ban on asylum will likely force even greater numbers of asylum-seekers into precarious conditions along the border, endangering their lives and further jeopardizing our collective public health.