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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Condemns Extension of CDC Order that Effectively Ends Asylum
May 19, 2020

Human Rights First Condemns Extension of CDC Order that Effectively Ends Asylum

WASHINGTON - Human Rights First denounced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) indefinite extension today of its much-criticized order that has used the pretext of the pandemic to block or expel thousands of asylum-seekers to dangerous conditions, when alternatives exists that would allow them to be processed legally while still protecting public health.  

“This new extension of the CDC order will end U.S. refugee and child protections at the border indefinitely, endangering rather than saving lives,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. "There is little doubt that the Trump administration will wield this indefinite ban to expel and block asylum-seekers and children for many months or longer, possibly until this administration is no longer in office. Given the damage already done in the wake of the initial order, there is little doubt many more children and people seeking refuge will face life-threatening dangers as a result of this extension. 

“At a time when its credibility is paramount, it is shocking to see the CDC become an instrument to advance the Trump administration’s immigration policy goals by banning asylum-seekers and refugees from safety.”  

Earlier this week, leading public health experts - including former CDC officials and deans of public health schools - called into question the public health rationale of the CDC’s order concluding that it is being “used to target certain classes of noncitizens rather than to protect public health.” The public health experts urged that “rather than imposing a ban or suspension on people seeking protection from harm, U.S. authorities should use evidence-based public health measures to process asylum seekers and other persons crossing the U.S. border.” 

Human Rights First’s own research found that the CDC order has been used to block and expel thousands of asylum-seekers and children to dangerous places. Human Rights First estimated that the order prevents at least 4,000 families, adults, and children a month from requesting refugee protection in the United States. Over 1,000 unaccompanied children have already been expelled to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and other countries under the order.

“Public health experts have made clear that it is possible to safeguard both public health and the lives of people seeking humanitarian protection,” said Acer. “But this administration is continuing to use the pandemic as a pretext to nullify U.S. laws that provide life-saving protections.”