In Times of Crisis, the US Must Protect Asylum

18 March 2020

On March 18, the U.S. Administration announced plans to restrict the U.S.-Mexico border as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions include quickly deporting asylum seekers who present themselves at the U.S. border without due process.

While JRS/USA supports global and national efforts to slow the spread of this virus, appropriate steps can be taken that do not cause harm to individuals with a valid claim for protection from seeking asylum as they flee violence and persecution. Rather than close down the asylum process, we urge the U.S. to put measures in place that manage risks to public health, but that do not deny persons seeking international protection from doing so.

“Refugees and forcibly displaced people are particularly vulnerable at this moment. We must not turn our backs on them, but instead must put in place processes to ensure their safety as well as the safety of U.S. citizens,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of JRS/USA.

In a guidance note issued on March 16, the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) reaffirms that, under international law, States have the sovereign power to regulate the entry of foreigners but that these regulations must not prevent them from seeking asylum.

JRS/USA remains committed to our mission to accompany, serve, and advocate with and on behalf of the forcibly displaced. We urge the U.S. to not lose sight of other vulnerabilities faced by our fellow brothers and sisters, as we navigate these unprecedented times.