LIRS: Supreme Court Decision to Allow Asylum Ban During Continued Legal Challenges Will Endanger Thousands of Lives

Published On: Donate
September 12, 2019: For Immediate Release

LIRS: Supreme Court Decision to Allow Asylum Ban During Continued Legal Challenges Will Endanger Thousands of Lives

Contact: Tim Young | | 443-257-6310

Baltimore, MD – The Supreme Court decided yesterday that the Trump administration’s new policy barring asylum for those who travel through Mexico to reach the border can be enforced while legal challenges continue against the ban.

“At a time of unprecedented need, the abdication of moral leadership is inexcusable. Frankly, lives will be lost as a direct result of this reckless policy,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President & CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). “It abandons our values as a nation and our obligations, under both domestic and international law, to offer protection to asylum seekers with a well-founded fear of persecution.”

Turning sharply from decades-old protocol, under the newly implemented rules, Hondurans and Salvadorans must seek asylum in Guatemala or Mexico first before they can apply in the United States. Guatemalans will be required to seek and be denied asylum in Mexico before applying at the southern border.

“The decision is unfortunately based on the false premise that Mexico and Guatemala are safe countries,” noted Vignarajah, whose organization coordinates transitional shelters along the border for recently released asylum seekers. “We have heard report after report demonstrating that migrants in these countries are vulnerable to extreme squalor, violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.”

The Supreme Court’s decision comes during a year of unprecedented migration to the United States as a result of instability in South and Central America. “Venezuelans fleeing Maduro’s regime, Nicaraguans escaping authoritarian crackdowns, transgender women running from deadly persecution – all of these people will find America’s golden doors closed to them,” lamented Vignarajah.

The new asylum ban will remain in effect at least until legal challenges resume in December 2019. Given the level of contention in this case, also known as East Bay Sanctuary v. Barr, a final ruling may not be delivered for months or years.

“For thousands of people fleeing for their lives, a wait of even months is too long” noted Vignarajah. “America is, and always has been, a bastion of opportunity for all. Why would we possibly turn away from our long legacy of welcome when we are needed the most?”


Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America. 

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