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The Women’s Refugee Commission Urges Congress to Defend Right to Seek Asylum and Reject Harmful, Tried-and-Failed Policies

Washington, D.C. – The Women’s Refugee Commission today condemned new legislation— H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023—introduced by U.S. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-26) and Tom McClintock (R-CA-5). The legislation would restrict the right to seek asylum, reinstate Remain in Mexico, detain families, eliminate protections for unaccompanied children, and prohibit federal funding for nongovernmental humanitarian service providers, among other provisions. The bill is expected to come to the House floor for a vote next week.

In addition, U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have introduced a bill that would require, for a period of two years, the detention and expulsion of all individuals who enter the United States without prior authorization—including unaccompanied children. The bill would also mandate family detention, attempt to expel individuals of all nationalities to Mexico, and raise the threshold for protection, among other provisions.

These legislative efforts come in anticipation of the lifting of Title 42 on May 11, 2023, when the national COVID-19 public health emergency expires. For more than three years, Title 42 has been used to summarily expel people more than 2.7 million times back to Mexico or the country they fled from without the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.

In response, Kimiko Hirota, policy advisor in the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), issued the following statement:

“These new legislative proposals that seek to replicate Title 42 and more, fail to manage migration in a fair, orderly, and humane manner and would instead dismantle the U.S. asylum system. The lawmakers introducing these bills are forgetting that Title 42 actually created more chaos at the border by benefiting transnational organized crime and resulting in thousands of violent attacks against people seeking asylum, including women and children.

“The Biden administration is already planning to implement restrictive, deterrence-based approaches to migration when Title 42 lifts, including by forcing people to seek protection in another country first and placing individuals and families into rapid deportation processes that risk due process violations. That members of Congress seek to essentially end access to protection by gutting U.S. asylum laws and protections for unaccompanied children is unconscionable.

“WRC urges lawmakers to reject tried-and-failed immigration policies that sow chaos at the southern border and harm the most vulnerable. Our nation’s leaders should uphold refugee rights and make sure that the U.S. asylum process ensures due process for all, regardless of their nationality, race, or manner of entry.

“As more individuals seek protection from persecution in the United States, the Biden administration and Congress must support border communities and humanitarian workers who welcome people seeking safety every day.”