FWD.us Statement on Biden Administration Asylum Policy Announcements

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us President Todd Schulte released the following statement today after the Biden Administration’s asylum policy announcement:

“Multiple things can be true at the same time: the Biden Administration’s creation of new legal pathways that will protect vulnerable individuals is a critical and positive step; expanding Title 42 is entirely wrong; and we strongly oppose the proposed policy that would disqualify many from ever seeking asylum on U.S. soil — a policy that seemingly resembles the illegal transit ban created by the Trump Administration — and we strongly urge the Administration not to pursue this policy. We reject the false concept that creating and maintaining working, legal pathways that allow people to come to the U.S. safely need to be held in some sort of feigned balance against eliminating the fundamental right to seek asylum.

“The opportunities and challenges in this global moment on migration are real. There are extremely few functioning legal pathways for people to try to come to the U.S. in the Western Hemisphere — whether to work, to be reunited with family, or especially for those seeking refuge, for whom America is their last, best hope. There has been no real Western Hemisphere refugee program, no meaningful in-country processing for humanitarian relief, our visa system doesn’t work for those coming to work or to see family, and ports of entry have been closed for years, pushing people to cross between ports of entry, risking their lives at land and at sea. Today, there is no ‘right way’ to come for most people, and there are no great short term policy solutions within this inherently failed system — and there won’t be until the U.S. actually builds a robust system of diverse safe and legal immigration avenues that allow people to migrate safely and for many reasons.

“Here is our understanding of today’s announcement:

First – the creation and expansion of these new legal pathways for four countries is a critical though overdue improvement that will hopefully enable hundreds of thousands of families fleeing untenable circumstances to seek humanitarian relief and refuge in the United States. We urge the Administration to take an all-of-government approach to building, implementing, maintaining — and ultimately expanding — these and other safe and legal avenues.

“We have seen that not only do these pathways work for those seeking refuge, but they play a critical role in creating an orderly process that is best for our country and takes processing pressure off of the border. The right to seek asylum and a functioning asylum system must be protected, but in the absence of other channels, too much pressure is being put on this one avenue and channel. Humanitarian parole is an important tool that we encourage the Administration to continue to use. We’ve seen its success in support of those fleeing Ukraine, as well as to a more limited extent Afghanistan and Venezuela, and today’s announcement hopefully will result in similar successes for individuals and families from additional countries, as well. It’s critical that these populations be supported with long-term stability in the United States, not just temporary protections. We also urge the Administration to move away from unnecessary burdens and harmful limitations on who and how people can benefit. 

“Affirmatively building these pathways and ensuring they work — and that those able to benefit from parole have a fair and timely asylum process from within the U.S. — requires commitment and dedication. The longevity of both the protections people will receive and the existence of the program remains unclear after today’s announcement. Today must be the start of a long process of growth ahead; successful implementation is what will matter here. 

“But it is critical to understand that for many, many people, they absolutely do not have the option to ‘stay where [they] are and apply legally from there.’ Some may use these new pathways, but for many, they have no choice but to flee, and seek asylum — a process outside of their country of origin, on U.S. soil. So while these pathways are essential, they cannot and should not stand as a substitute.

“Second – expanding the use of Title 42 to more countries is absolutely wrong. The Administration was correct when it said that Title 42 was illegal. The President himself today stated that he is against Title 42, while announcing an expansion of this policy. Title 42 is cruel and chaotic, and it has always been a lie to pretend it was about public health. This was the case in 2020 under then-President Trump, in 2021, 2022, and now 2023 (and perhaps beyond) under President Biden. Title 42 has been the foundational border policy for nearly three years, and it has brought more chaos. Two things can be true: the continued judicial rulings keeping it in place are absolutely wrong, and the Administration waited much too long before they took efforts to end its use. 

“Beyond the cruelty of Title 42, it is also worth noting that the continued use of Title 42, and the chaos it continues to create, has been a political loss for this Administration, and a clear example of bad policy leading to bad politics. For those looking for a deterrent, it has completely failed. President Biden himself noted this today. Yet today’s announcement brings more Title 42. Expanding this illegal, chaotic policy will not bring more order, let alone humanity or security.

“Third – today’s announcement strikingly included a preview of a notice of proposed rulemaking of a policy that would disqualify many from ever seeking asylum on U.S. soil, seemingly resembling the illegal transit ban created by the Trump Administration.

“Such a policy would pose potentially devastating long-term impacts that could gut access to asylum for decades to come. Details matter, and it can be challenging to assess the size and scope of impact, so for those less involved in details of asylum policy we want to be clear: an effort to permanently disqualify and ban people from ever seeking asylum on U.S. soil would represent an unacceptable affront to America’s long-standing promise to be a welcoming nation. It is tragically easy to envision how such a decision in the weeks ahead would remain our nation’s policy for decades.

“A policy that disqualifies individuals and families fleeing persecution with almost nothing, and for whom America might be their last and only hope — because, for instance, they didn’t have the funds for a plane ticket or left their passport behind or didn’t use an app correctly, or they couldn’t wait any longer to flee, or they cannot realistically gain refuge in a neighboring nation — is a policy that the United States should not implement. These sorts of externalization policies may push enforcement further away from U.S. soil and American media, but the harms they cause to these families are no less acute, nor are the sometimes life-saving protections they deny. Families belong together — they should not be separated by American policies in a third country nor by our government agents on U.S. soil — and human beings shouldn’t lose their right to have a shot to escape persecution and live and thrive in the United States because the same failed regime they seek to escape won’t issue them an updated passport.

“We understand that in the short term within this fundamentally failed system, there are no easy solutions. This was one reason why we encouraged the Administration to end Title 42 immediately upon entering office and get to work building legal pathways; there was never some easy way forward, and we have seen that delay and holding on to the tools of the past Administration has only brought more harm and challenges. So permanently enshrining such a policy that will last so long into the future would be a drastic mistake.

“It is our understanding that this policy will be laid out further in a proposed rule to come in the weeks ahead. We call on President Biden and the Administration to reverse course and not to continue down this pathway with this proposed rule. Instead, they should dedicate their efforts, time, and resources to the considerable task of building new safe and legal pathways, and strengthening and expanding their use of existing avenues for people to come to the U.S. for refuge, to work, to study, and to be reunited with their families.”

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