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ORAM Joins 172 Groups to Condemn Biden Admin's Violation of the Refugee Law with Title 42 Extension

August 6, 2021


Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

President of the United States

White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500


Dear President Biden:


As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Refugee Convention, our 173 faith-based, humanitarian, legal services, immigration, and human rights organizations write to express profound disappointment that your administration’s actions are undermining refugee protections globally and violating refugee law at home. We are gravely concerned that the administration issued a new order this week to continue to block and expel asylum-seeking families and adults to life-threatening dangers, is escalating the use of fundamentally flawed expedited removal, has massively increased detention of adults seeking protection, and continues to make statements that undermine the right to asylum.

We are horrified that your administration has embraced and doubled down on the Trump-era Title 42 policy by announcing it will use a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order, which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is wielding to continue to block and expel families and adults seeking refugee protection in violation of U.S. refugee law. This order, like its predecessors, uses public health as a pretext to circumvent U.S. refugee laws and treaties. We urge that you immediately end this travesty.


Over the past six months, human rights researchers and journalists have identified over 3,200 kidnappings, torture, rape, and other attacks suffered by people expelled or blocked at the border under Title 42. Epidemiologists and public health experts have repeatedly denounced the Title 42 policy as lacking public health justification and actually threatening public health. They have urged your administration to adopt rational, science-based measures that protect public health and people seeking safety in the United States. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has specifically called on the United States to “swiftly lift the public health-related asylum restrictions that remain in effect at the border and to restore access to asylum for the people whose lives depend on it, in line with international legal and human rights obligations.”


In addition, many refugees will be deprived of their right to seek asylum in the United States as a result of DHS’s announcement that it will subject families to expedited removal (a process already being used against adult asylum seekers), despite its long history of due process failures. The bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which monitored this process over many years, found that CBP officers failed in more than half of cases where monitors were present during interviews to take steps required under U.S. law to screen asylum seekers. In 15 percent of cases the Commission observed CBP improperly order asylum seekers deported who had indicated a fear of return. Not only do the deficiencies documented by USCIRF and others continue, but DHS has expanded the use of expedited removal.


The DHS announcement also suggests that families will be subjected to expedited removal for coming to the United States the “wrong way,” thereby inflicting expedited removal as a penalty for entry, which is impermissible under the Refugee Convention, and completely disingenuous, as people cannot generally seek asylum at U.S. ports of entry due to the administration’s failure to uphold refugee law at the border. Further, this expedited removal process reportedly relies on the use of the Electronic Nationality Verification Program (ENV) to quickly deport nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras without travel documents, which will likely further limit access to counsel. Tellingly, the DHS announcement makes no mention of the use of ENV or a 2019 DHS memo directing that people with imminent medical concerns should not be removed using ENV.


The administration’s plans to “fairly and efficiently” decide asylum cases, outlined in its new Blueprint, are also premised on the use of the fundamentally unjust expedited removal process. Fairness, due process and compliance with U.S. obligations to protect people seeking asylum should not be sacrificed for speed. Many of our organizations have also written to DHS to object to the sharp increase in detention of adults seeking asylum, which has accompanied the administration’s use of expedited removal, and urged that neither adults nor families be jailed while their asylum cases proceed.


We also urge that your administration stop making statements that undercut the right to asylum and reinforce anti-asylum narratives. Earlier this year, many of our groups wrote to express concern about administration statements that risked bolstering the prior administration’s inhumane rhetoric. We continue to be deeply disappointed that some administration statements undermine the right to seek asylum, attempt to justify treating asylum seekers and migrants as threats to public health, and tout efforts to provide protection for people “closer to their homes” - a phrase often used in xenophobic rhetoric aimed at denying people protection in the United States. We were particularly dismayed by recent comments indicating that people “should not come” to the United States to seek asylum and that they could instead seek “asylum” from their home countries - a message that sends the wrong signal to rights-violating governments looking to slam their doors shut to the persecuted.


Your administration must direct immediate actions to uphold U.S. refugee law and treaty obligations. Critical steps include restarting asylum processing along the border, ending policies that block people from seeking asylum at our ports of entry, providing prompt and fair asylum decisions, rejecting the use of expedited removal and immigration detention, and launching legal representation and community-based case support initiatives. The United States helped draft the Refugee Convention in the wake of World War II, and, as a U.S. Senator, you were a co-sponsor of the U.S. Refugee Act, which affirmed in U.S. law the right to seek asylum. The United States should lead by example by honoring its human rights commitments at home.


Respectfully,


ADL (the Anti-Defamation League)

The Advocates for Human Rights

African Communities Together

Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice

Aldea - The People’s Justice Center

Alianza Americas

Alliance San Diego

Al Otro Lado

American Friends Service Committee

Amnesty International USA

ANNUNCIATION HOUSE, INC.

Arizona Dream Act Coalition

Arizona Justice For Our Neighbors

Asian American Federation of Florida - South Region

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles

Asian Caribbean Exchange

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Asylum Access

Asylum Access México (AAMX) A.C.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)

Austin Border Relief

Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

BORDER ANGELS

Border Kindness

Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR)

Bridges Faith Initiative

California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice

El Calvario UMC and Immigrant Advocacy Center

Cameroon American Council

Catholic Charities Diocese of Monterey Watsonville

Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Children’s Defense Fund

Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice

Church World Service

Center for Civic Policy

Center for Democracy in the Americas

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

Center for Victims of Torture

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim

Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Inc. (CAB)

Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible

COOLJC Region 8 SJEREC

Cooperation Operation

Detention Watch Network

Disciples Immigration Legal Counsel

Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries

Divided Families Podcast

Employee Rights Center

Encompass Community Services-Head Start

Espacio Migrante

Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project

Faiths for Safe Water

Fellowship Southwest

Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project

Florida Asian Services

Florida Asian Women Alliance

Good Shepherd Lutheran

Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA

Haitian Bridge Alliance

HANA Center

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

HIAS

HIAS Pennsylvania

Hope Border Institute

Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative

Human Impact Partners

Human Rights First

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

Human Rights Watch

Immigrant and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of New

York

Immigrant Defenders Law Center

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project

Immigration Advocacy & Support Center

Immigration Equality

Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI)

Interfaith Welcome Coalition - San Antonio

International Mayan League

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

International Rescue Committee

Jane’s Due Process

Japanese American Citizens League

Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA

Jewish Family Service of San Diego

Justice Action Center

Justice for Our Neighbors El Paso

Justice for Our Neighbors Michigan

The Justice Salon at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Chapel

Kids in Need of Defense

Kino Border Initiative

La Raza Community Resource Center

Laredo Immigrant Alliance

Latin America Working Group

Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG)

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Madres e Hijos

MERCIFUL REFUGEE AND IMMIGRANT SERVICES

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Mijente

Mississippi Center for Justice

Motivation Motivates

Mujeres Unidas y Activas

National Council of Jewish Women

National Education Association

National Immigrant Justice Center

National Justice For Our Neighbors

National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights

National Partnership for New Americans

Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

NOVA Friends of Refugees

OCA South Florida Chapter

OneAmerica

OPAWL - Building AAPI Feminist Leadership in Ohio

ORAM - Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration

Owl & Panther

Oxfam America

Pacific Islander Health Board

Peace Action Group of Plymouth Church Seattle, UCC

Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California

Phoenix Refugee Connections

Physicians for Human Rights

Project Blueprint

Public Counsel

Quixote Center

Rainbow Beginnings

La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

Refugee Congress

Refugees International

RITA - Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network

Rocky Mountain Welcome Center

San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium

Sanctuary Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Welcoming Network

SEIU United Service Workers West

The Sidewalk School

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team

Social Eco Education (SEE-LA)

Sojourners

Somali Association of Arizona

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Southern Border Communities Coalition

Southern California Immigration Project

Southern Poverty Law Center

Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice

Tahirih Justice Center

The Temple of the Waters

Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors

UndocuBlack Network

Unitarian Universalist Refugee & Immigrant Services & Education

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Unite Oregon

United We Dream

Universidad Popular

VECINA

Voces Unidas

We Are All America

Welcoming America

Win Without War

Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center

Witness at the Border

Women’s Refugee Commission

Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Youth Education & Development Programs

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