The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project condemns in the strongest possible terms the Senate Supplemental Funding Bill announced on Sunday, February 4, by a bipartisan group of Senators, including Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema. If passed, this bill will decimate asylum in the United States by enacting a new expulsion authority that would mandate closing the border under certain circumstances, raising the pre-screening standards for asylum, and instituting a rapid review of asylum claims that would cut judicial review out of cases entirely. The bill would do this all while also allocating to massively expand ICE detention.
“This bill is a disgrace, plain and simple,” said Laura St. John, Florence Project Legal Director. “It embraces extreme restrictions on asylum and policies that will cause immense human suffering at the border and for anyone seeking protection in the United States. Despite President Biden’s campaign promises to restore humanity to our immigration system, instead he is supporting and in fact encouraging policies that will lead to families being separated and will put the lives of people seeking protection in grave danger.
“The so-called solutions laid out in this bill will do nothing to address the significant challenges that we face at the border. Deterrence policies do not work because people fleeing for their lives have no other options, but this proposal will be particularly chaotic and ineffective because the status of asylum processing at the border will change with little–to–no notice. It will create the very conditions of confusion and instability in which cartels and transnational criminal organizations thrive.”
Specifically, the framework includes an expulsion power reminiscent of the Title 42 border closure that would mandate expelling all arriving migrants between ports of entry after an average of 5,000 crossings per day over a week or 8,500 crossings in one day. While ports of entry would be required to process at least 1,400 claims per day, this will be insufficient to meet the needs of people trapped at the border. Codifying an expulsion power like this will bar people fleeing grave harm from even asking for asylum in the United States, force them to wait in dangerous conditions, and exacerbate many of the current challenges we’re facing at the border.
This bill also imposes restrictions on asylum that will make it much more difficult for people to clear the first step in the asylum screening process and will move the entire asylum process out of the immigration courts, bypassing immigration judges and federal court reviews entirely. Instead, all reviews and appeals will be conducted by USCIS asylum officers, meaning people will have no recourse through the judicial system to contest decisions that they believe are incorrect.
“We know that we face significant challenges at the U.S.-Mexico abandoning our values and closing our doors to migrants and asylum seekers is not the answer,” continued St. John. “It‘s absurd to bar access to asylum simply because an arbitrary number of people are seeking protection – people who need protection need protection, regardless of how many other people are seeking asylum at the same time. These challenges are rooted in our own misguided priorities, broken systems, and lack of political will to offer solutions and meaningful investment in providing a fair, safe, and efficient process at the border that centers the inherent dignity and humanity of all migrants.
“It is distressing that these Senators have written, and the President supports, a bill that will both put people seeking protection in the United States in grave danger and do nothing to solve the very real challenges that we face at the border. If this bill becomes law, President Biden’s and this Congress’ legacies on immigration will be cemented – as the people who oversaw, and encouraged, the destruction of our asylum system. We strongly urge all members of Congress to stand with immigrants and asylum seekers and vote against this devastating deal.”