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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

LIRS Opposes the Extension of Severe Immigration Restrictions at the U.S. Southern Border

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LIRS Staff

May 19, 2020

Contact: Timothy Young | | 443-257-6310

Washington D.C. – On May 19, the Trump Administration extended its coronavirus border restrictions indefinitely, continuing an order that has precipitated a complete shutdown of asylum protections at the southern border. The policy, originally invoked by the C.D.C. on March 20th and extended once already on April 20th, allows Border Patrol agents to immediately return asylum seekers to Mexico or their home countries – resulting in the “expulsion” of more than 20,000 migrants in less than 2 months.

“The mixed messaging is dizzying,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “In the same breath that the administration tells Americans that our country is safe enough to begin re-opening, it cuts off every conceivable path to protection for the most vulnerable asylum seekers.”

Since the order has been in effect, Border Patrol agents have referred just 59 migrants to be interviewed by asylum officers. As of today, only two individuals have been granted protection in the United States while the order has been in effect.

“These staggeringly low numbers highlight the tragic extent to which our government has forsaken its legal obligations under humanitarian laws, as well as its moral responsibility to those fleeing unimaginable hardship,” continued Ms. Vignarajah. “The fact that there are no exceptions for unaccompanied migrant children is nothing short of a stain on our nation’s soul.”

Advocates and humanitarian organizations have decried the order as both immoral and illegal. Faith-based groups have condemned the unprecedented restrictions as incompatible with the practice of their religion.

“Our organization has long supported shelters for asylum seekers to provide a good night’s sleep, a hot meal, and assistance rejoining their family or sponsor at their final destination,” noted Ms. Vignarajah. “Between the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy and this shutdown of asylum at the border, Americans of faith have been virtually unable to answer that higher call to welcome the stranger.”

The extended order requires C.D.C. officials to review the dangers posed by COVID-19 to the American public every 30 days.

“Our greatest fear is that these strict, and frankly illegal restrictions on immigration will remain in place long after the public health crisis has been mitigated,” concluded Ms. Vignarajah. “Cracking down on virtually every form of immigration, be it legal or otherwise, has long been a central priority for the administration.”

Read the full text of the extended order here:

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