Short-sighted, Punitive Proposal to Dismantle Asylum Would Harm Children, Families

This statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, president and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Washington, D.C., February 5, 2024– CLASP is deeply opposed to the proposed legislative text for the supplemental funding bill, which would gut the U.S. asylum system and funnel billions of dollars to harmful border enforcement measures. This shortsighted proposal will cause harm to immigrant families and does little to address the root causes of global migration or improve the ability of U.S. communities—both at the border and beyond—to welcome new arrivals. We urge Congress to reject this harmful legislation and for the Biden Administration to reverse course and stand up for immigrant communities. 

The proposed legislation would bring back Trump-era immigration policies that are rooted in xenophobia and racism by placing arbitrary limits on asylum. Policies enacted in the previous administration that barred most asylum seekers from entering the U.S. under Title 42 or forced them to remain in Mexico did not stem the flow of asylum-seekers at our border. Instead, they exacerbated dangerous conditions at our border and resulted in children and families experiencing violent attacks in pursuit of their legal right to claim asylum. Department of Homeland Security officials at the border have also acknowledged the extra burden such policies would put on them by actually increasing border encounters. Without addressing the root causes of why people are fleeing their home countries, families and children will continue to come to the U.S. border seeking safety from persecution, gang violence, and extreme poverty. 

Although this legislation includes provisions to support family unity through additional green card allocations and protections for children of H-1B workers, these provisions fall short of the policies needed to meaningfully reform our immigration system. The bill does not provide much-needed relief to Dreamers and other immigrants with deep roots in this country. Through this proposal, federal lawmakers are instead choosing to provide limited support to some immigrants in exchange for far-reaching and deeply harmful asylum policies. Additionally, the policies that promote the best interest of children and provide legal counsel, while welcome, do not outweigh the harm that children and families arriving to the United States will ultimately face as a result of punitive asylum policies that substantially raise requirements for their lawful entry. 

Rather than consider the same failed policies, Congress should instead implement humane, effective solutions that address the core issues and ameliorate pressure at the border. We must prioritize processing and screening asylum seekers; provide sufficient resources to communities helping newly arrived migrants navigate the immigration process; and finally pass a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants who have lived in our communities for years. Such reforms would alleviate immigrant communities’ fears, realign our immigration system with the value of welcoming immigrants, counter anti-immigrant rhetoric, and ensure that all Americans reap the benefits from an efficient and equitable immigration system.