In response to steps announced by the Trump administration on March 20 affecting asylum at US borders, Michelle Brané, senior director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), issued the following statement:
“It is no surprise to anyone that the Trump administration is exploiting a public health emergency to do what it has wanted to do at the southern border for years. The actions announced today are not grounded in public health or safety considerations necessary to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19. In fact, these restrictions would endanger vulnerable individuals, including asylum seekers and children seeking protection.
“If implemented, the steps previewed in today’s announcement would unquestionably violate US legal obligations to refugee protection, which include the right to seek asylum and are not suspendible in a pandemic.
“Seeking asylum is, by definition, essential travel. People fleeing for their lives do not make these decisions lightly. Any attempt to imply otherwise is shameful and xenophobic. At a time when the public needs clarity, leadership, and collaboration, this administration instead continues to create chaos, confusion, and fear.”
While the specifics of the agreement remain unclear both from the US and Mexican side, WRC is deeply concerned about the conditions displaced people will face in Mexico. WRC urges both the US and Mexican governments to review current policies and practices and include asylum seekers and migrants in the protective health services and actions they take.
“We must ensure that the unjustified and sweeping policy changes made by the administration in the name of this pandemic be undone immediately. The administration cannot be allowed to exploit this moment to decimate the remains of our asylum system while falsely grounding such historic changes in public health justifications,” said Brané.