"End the Shutdown" Legislation Riddled With Violations of U.S. Commitments to Refugee Protection

Refugees International today strongly urged the Congress to reject the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act of 2019 in its current form due to measures it would impose that violate U.S. commitments to refugee protection and abuse human rights.

Refugees International President Eric Schwartz said:

It is deeply disturbing that, without any prior deliberation, members of Congress would introduce legislation that so systematically deprives individuals of basic rights that are now guaranteed under both U.S. law and the Refugee Convention and Protocol to which the United States is a party. If enacted, this legislation would result in abuses of human rights, including the return of refugees to persecution, in conflict with U.S. legislation and U.S. values.

In particular the legislation would –

Deny Central American minors the ability to apply for asylum at the border or after arrival.

This is the most troubling and objectionable provision in the bill. Most Central American minors would be turned away at or between U.S. ports of entry and forced to apply for asylum from eight processing centers in Central America and Mexico. Moreover, the legislation would only permit those with parents or guardians in the United States to apply for asylum at the processing centers abroad—making the proposal even more cruel and in even greater conflict with basic protection imperatives. It is hard to understand how sponsors of this legislation could justify returning a minor to a situation in which their life or freedom would be in danger—but that is precisely what this ill-considered measure will do.

Impose restrictions on asylum that have nothing to do with the merits of an asylum claim, and which would put asylum seekers at grave risk.

Such restrictions would, for example, include permitting return of an asylum seeker to face persecution if it were found that, while the asylum seeker did indeed fear and risk persecution upon return, he or she also has an interest in gaining employment in the United States. This proposed restriction, along with several others in this misguided piece of legislation, is without foundation in international refugee law—and it would inevitably result in grave abuses against those returned to persecution.

Dramatically restrict humanitarian relief and protections for current DACA beneficiaries and others who are in similar situations, as well as TPS beneficiaries.

Refugees International has urged the president and Congress to ensure against the return of hundreds of thousands of individuals who benefited from the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, as well as from Temporary Protected Status, based on both the critical importance of family unity and the risks that would result from the return of large populations to countries in Central America that are experiencing extraordinarily high rates of violence.

The proposed legislation would dramatically—and gratuitously—restrict eligibilities. Such restrictions include a narrow definition of the affected populations, significantly increased application costs, wholly unreasonable income requirements, specific preclusion of adjustments to permanent residence, no indication of a future path to citizenship or regularization of status, and unreviewable authority to revoke status. Moreover, in the case of the TPS statute generally, the legislation would effectively gut future protections for those who might not be in lawful status, effectively—and cruelly—forcing their return to conditions of generalized violence or chaotic conditions resulting from natural disasters.