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Home / Press Release / Human Rights First Condemns Trump Administration Plans to Shut Southern Border to People Seeking Refuge, Disregard U.S. Law in Face of Coronavirus
March 17, 2020

Human Rights First Condemns Trump Administration Plans to Shut Southern Border to People Seeking Refuge, Disregard U.S. Law in Face of Coronavirus

WASHINGTON – In response to reports that the Trump Administration plans to shut the border to asylum-seekers, citing risks from coronavirus, Human Rights First’s Director of Refugee Protection Eleanor Acer gave the following statement:

“Turning people seeking refuge back to danger is not the answer. This decision will endanger more lives. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security should be paroling asylum-seekers and using its parole authority to end the Trump Administration’s horrific ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, which has already resulted in unprecedented danger for asylum-seekers.

“The president has long made clear he wants to slam the door – and close the border – to men, women and children legally seeking refuge. The administration says that it can’t safely hold people who seek asylum in detention, but there is no requirement that asylum-seekers from Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela and other countries be detained for extended periods in this country as they seek asylum. That cruelty is a policy choice of the Trump Administration that violates human rights treaties and U.S. law. 

“The Trump Administration has long refused to parole asylum-seekers from immigration detention facilities, despite U.S. laws and regulations providing for parole and despite U.S. treaty commitments that prohibit unnecessary and arbitrary detention. If the Trump Administration is actually concerned about risks in detention facilities, it should immediately change its draconian detention policies and parole asylum-seekers and others from facilities used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Decisions relating to the pandemic should be guided by public health officials, not by the Trump Administration's long-standing agenda to close the border to refugees seeking asylum. The administration is using the pandemic as a pretext to advance its long-term goal of curtailing asylum rights for people fleeing persecution.”

Today, Human Rights First, along with Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty International USA sent letters calling on governors and state health officials asked that they direct drastic reductions in ICE detention occupancy and pressure the federal government to release immigration detainees being held in their states. Advocates from the three groups also sent a similar letter appealing to the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security.