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Immigration Experts Discuss Latest Hill and Administration Developments

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A recording of the call is available here.

Earlier today, immigration experts and advocates gathered on a press call to discuss the upcoming Senate markup of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’s so-called asylum reform bill and discuss the House’s actions to pass affirmative legislation to address immigration/asylum/detention and much needed oversight into detention conditions and border issues. It seems the the Trump administration is doubling down on the ever growing list of cruel and inhumane immigration policies that are failing to provide real solutions on our border and to our nation’s immigration system. 

Below are quotes from today’s speakers. 

Jennifer Quigley, Director, Refugee Advocacy, Human Rights First, said, “Senator Graham is trying to legislate Trump’s abhorrent policies on refugees and children in particular. These policies and Senator Graham’s bill cause immense harm to children undermining and stripping away vital protections put in place through the Flores Settlement Agreement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). The foundation of our responsibilities toward refugees is to not return individuals to persecution, including rape, torture, death or other forms of violence. Sen. Graham is helping the Trump administration undermine this fundamental principle. Under Sen. Graham’s bill, refugees would be denied asylum and returned to persecution simply based on how they entered the country. It would bar Central American refugees from accessing asylum protections altogether. President Trump, with the help of Senator Graham, is seeking to end refugees access to safety and protection in the United States. We must reject these callous and inhumane anti-refugee policies.”

Kerri Talbot, Director of Federal Advocacy, Immigration Hub, said, “The Democrats have a vision about how to address immigration and the situation at the Southern border. Trump and the Republicans just want to create more chaos. The Democrat’s humane and sensible plan would address the root causes of migration, end family separation, provide efficient and fair asylum processes and monitor asylum seekers through alternatives to detention. Trump’s policies just create chaos and unsafe conditions for migrants.”

Ur Jaddou, Director, DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said, “The Trump administration inherited the lowest number of border apprehension in more than 40 years. They have squandered away that success over two years of failed administrative policies. These policies have either exacerbated problems on the border or created new ones, just like the Graham bill would do if enacted. 

Last summer we saw the worst of Trump’s policies – a family separation border policy that continues to have repercussions today.  We saw the administration attempt to limit the number of asylum requests at the ports of entry, creating months-long lines to apply for asylum. We have also seen how the previous Attorney General attempted to strong-arm asylum adjudicators and judges to outright deny most asylum claims based on domestic and gang violence and just yesterday the current Attorney General did the same thing for claims based on persecuted family members. As last summer faded away, the Trump administration announced a “return to Mexico” policy, where asylum seekers are vulnerable and in danger. 

The danger is not isolated in Mexico, however. For the first time in decades children are dying in US border custody. While Trump has so eagerly declared an unconstitutional national emergency in order to fund the border wall, he has never proposed using that money for the real humanitarian emergency at the border – severe overcrowding in detention facilities. Congress should not have to legislate basic human standards — sufficient food, soap, toothbrushes — for those in detention.  Anyone administering immigration policy should provide no less without Congressional intervention. It’s basic humanity.   

The current policies are not sustainable over the long term. They are cruel and inhumane and don’t adhere to American values. However, we know that there are other effective solutions that are both humane and adhere to long held American values.

Douglas Rivlin, Communications Director, America’s Voice, said, “The House left last week having passed several measures to address the crisis at the border, TPS and Dreamers. On the other hand, the Senate leaves without addressing the issues, in specific those on oversight on the border. There is a last try by Senator Graham that aims to cut asylum resources. In the White House there is a daily drum beat of racist and deplorable tweets by the President. New policies have been mandated that unilaterally deny claims of asylum and, there have been actions of dubious legality to keep asylum seekers out. The administration is forcing people to wait indefinitely outside the country. In the book Team of Vipers, Stephen Miller is quoted saying: ‘I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.’ We need to find solutions to end the cruelty, and address the failure of the Trump and Miller approach.

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