Ascentria Care Alliance and the International Institute of New England are human services organizations that have been welcoming and serving immigrants in New England communities for over a century.
While our organizations understand the pressure that President Biden is under to address the influx of migrant families and individuals along the southern border, the United States has a proud tradition of being a safe haven for asylum seekers who are vulnerable members of society, fleeing war-torn countries and situations of extreme danger. It is our duty to provide them with a fair and just process to seek refuge in our country. An asylum transit ban is contrary to this country’s self-proclaimed status and long history as a beacon of liberty.
The Biden Administration’s proposed rule would ban people from seeking asylum in the U.S. if they do not apply for asylum in another country first or do not make an appointment with a Customs and Border office through a mobile application. This is completely contrary to our fundamental values of providing refuge and protection to those who are fleeing persecution, violence, or other threats to their lives.
Moreover, it violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allows people seeking protection to apply for asylum regardless of the manner of entry, and it does not require people to apply for asylum elsewhere first.
Notwithstanding the humanitarian argument, there are other critical arguments to make in support of open asylum and immigrant welcome:
- Economic benefit: Immigrants offer our struggling economy a critical source of much-needed labor across industries in the U.S., and in New England in particular. A glaring example is the healthcare systems in Massachusetts and New Hampshire that are crumbling due to staff shortages, putting patients at risk, and leaving thousands without care. A reduction in immigrants allowed to enter with work eligibility will exacerbate an already critical shortage. Ascentria and IINE have spent years developing partnerships and initiatives that address medical staff shortages in both states by creating a pathway for licensed medical professionals from other countries to be medically trained to work in nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
- Child protection: Under the proposed asylum transit ban, children will still be allowed entry into the U.S. if they arrive unaccompanied but will be turned away if they arrive with family members. This policy will exacerbate family separation at the border and will continue to put desperate children at unforgiveable risk.
We call on policymakers to recognize the importance of a fair and humane asylum system that allows people to seek protection and find safety from persecution. Says Angela Bovill, CEO and President of Ascentria, “Now is the time to work together in partnership with the Administration to create innovative solutions that address the challenges our nation faces at this crossroads. Working together we can find ways to ensure those seeking asylum in the United States can reunite with their families and pursue a path to citizenship; make available a critical source of much-needed labor in the U.S to fill jobs and make our entire economy stronger, and manage the influx of migrant families and individuals along the southern border.”
We stand with asylum seekers and will continue to advocate for their rights and protection. Ascentria and IINE will be offering a formal response to the Proposed Rules within the 30-day time period. We will also monitor and provide input as the “The Dream Act of 2023” moves forward with bipartisan co- sponsorship from Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Your voice also matters. Please submit a public comment or contact your legislators with stories of impact.