tags: Press Releases

What’s at Stake with Delaying Ukrainian Aid for Permanent Asylum and Immigration Changes

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Link to Audio Recording of Today’s Call HERE

Washington, DC On a press call held this afternoon, national security experts joined border and immigration policy advocates and experts to assess the ongoing Capitol Hill supplemental funding negotiations and what’s at stake.

Speakers on today’s call highlighted why aid to Ukrainian allies is essential and why a potential delay would be so damaging. Meanwhile, other speakers underscored why the permanent immigration and asylum changes proposed in exchange for supporting our allies in Ukraine should not be mischaracterized as “border security.” Among the proposed policies some elected officials are proposing include efforts to make the asylum system nearly inaccessible, restrict lawful migration pathways, and increase detention of children and families.

Michael Breen, President and CEO, Human Rights First, said: “Human Rights First has been working in Ukraine since before Russia’s initial invasion in 2014. After the full scale invasion, I went to Ukraine and saw firsthand how critical U.S. aid is to protecting human rights in the region. It is callous and shortsighted of members of Congress to consider undermining our support for a fellow democracy facing an existential threat. American national security is fundamentally grounded in our reputation as a reliable partner and ally to those who share our values. Compromising that reputation for short term political gain has national security ramifications that will be difficult to foresee.”

Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, U.S. Army (Retired), Former Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe, and Senior Advisor to Human Rights First, noted: “American prosperity depends on European prosperity which depends on security and stability in Europe. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has generated millions of refugees and disrupted energy supplies and food shipments to millions of people. China is watching to see if the US and our Allies have the political will, industrial capacity, and military capability to help Ukraine defeat Russia, Israel defeat Hamas, deter Iran from expanding the conflict in the region and still be able to deter China in the South China Sea or from attacking Taiwan. Putin is waiting for the US and the West to give in, to halt or decrease our support to Ukraine. Our political problems that are holding up aid to Ukraine are oxygen to the Kremlin’s strategy of a long war of attrition.”

Jason Houser, former Chief of Staff, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Managing Partner, Red Cedar Partners LLC, said of proposed permanent immigration policy changes: “In the history of the Department of Homeland Security and larger flows of migrants at the southern border, there has never been data that has shown that these sort of measures or reforms would stop or deter within a migrant’s calculus to come to the southern border.”

Robyn Barnard, Director of Refugee Advocacy at Human Rights First, said: “Proposals on the table are not about ‘border security.’  They are about gutting our refugee protections and reducing the ways certain people can come to the United States in a safe and legal manner, and would make things much worse at the border. The bottom line is people will still come, but without safe options to seek asylum or access safety, they will be much more likely to come outside of regular immigration pathways. That is not safe or humane, and it is certainly not smart border policy.”

Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice and the moderator of today’s press call, noted: “The changes being demanded are not really about ‘border security,’ a short-hand used by many to describe what is on the table. There is a lot of border security money in the President’s budget request and other measures that could be taken without fundamentally restricting access to asylum or reducing the safe and legal ways people can come to the United States. ‘Border security’ and reducing legal immigration avenues are two very different things.”