A message from IINE CEO, Jeff Thielman, on new federal guidelines released this week
“A well-founded fear of persecution.” Since 1951, that phrase has been the global standard for asylum-seekers desperate for a safe future. “Fear of persecution” is a lawyerly way of generalizing warfare, gang violence, discrimination, genocide, corruption, racism, and religious and ethnic conflict. For all of those reasons and more, people have come to the U.S. to seek asylum. Without a plan, without their belongings, without any thought other than the pursuit of life and liberty.
This week, the United States of America ignored domestic law and a 68-year old treaty-bound tradition of offering refuge to the world’s most vulnerable families by effectively terminating the asylum application process for Central American families.
The policy change is short – just 340 words in a “Procedural Modification” on Asylum Eligibility. But, with those 340 words, the U.S. federal government has strategically condemned to danger and even death, thousands of men, women, and children who have a legitimate, well-founded fear of persecution.
Each year the International Institute of New England serves hundreds of people from the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – who inspire us with their grit, generous spirit, and gratitude. Our caseworkers will help 200 unaccompanied and separated children from this region reunite with family members in New England. Many of the 1,500 people who will take part in our English, skills training, and career placement programs in 2019 are from Central America.
As you read this, people from the Northern Triangle who cannot return home because their lives would be in danger are working in restaurants, hotels, hospitals, manufacturing facilities and other industries throughout New England. They are paying taxes, raising families, and building a better community. They are our neighbors and friends.
The administration’s new asylum policy is wrong, amoral, contrary to our laws and traditions, and ultimately against our own national interests. It must not stand.