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Human Rights Initiative January 30, 2017
Human Right Initiative of North Texas Opposes Last Week’s Executive Orders, Especially the Ways they Harm Those Seeking Asylum.
Last week President Trump signed three executive orders on immigration that contain a myriad of problems but are especially damaging to people fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in the United States. Friday’s executive order banned travelers and intending immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and caused chaos this weekend as U.S. airports detained both immigrants and U.S. Citizens. These orders will prevent some asylum-seekers from obtaining visas to come to the United States and will deny entry or detain other asylum-seekers who ask for protection at U.S. borders. Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI) strongly opposes these policies that not only violate international law but are also inhumane and unrepresentative of our nation.
Friday’s order suspends the entry of both immigrants and non-immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya for 90 days, and the State Department has already stopped issuing visas for people from those countries. HRI has clients from all these nations except Yemen and Libya, and many of them entered the United States on a visa and then applied for asylum here based on their fears of political, religious or ethnic persecution. This ban denies not just tourists, workers and students from coming to the United States, it also blocks those fleeing violence and torture from escaping these countries. Even a “temporary” ban can mean the difference between life and death.
Wednesday’s order will force asylum-seekers to face a number of additional challenges, including prolonged detention in private-owned prisons. Most detention facilities are far away from major urban areas which make access to legal representation and other services extremely difficult. Placing asylum-seekers in detention rushes the asylum process, making it more likely due process violations will occur. Detention is often re-traumatizing to asylum-seekers as many have been unjustly imprisoned in their home countries. In addition, detaining asylum-seekers is overly burdensome on taxpayers – detaining immigrants is expensive, costing upwards of $100 per day. Financial projections for President Trump’s immigrant detention policy exceed $50 billion, according to the Center for American Progress.
“The President’s executive orders are overbroad, do not accomplish their stated purposes and create immense hardship for those who have done nothing to deserve it. The order on detention mandates the expensive and unnecessary detention of people who are fleeing persecution. The order imposing a travel ban is discriminatory and unnecessary. In addition it presents additional hurdles to those who may wish to utilize a visa to visit our country and intend to apply for asylum. With both orders, we are seeking the illusion of being safer as we turn our backs on the most vulnerable people in the world, those fleeing persecution because of their religion, race, political opinion, nationality and membership in a social group” says Bill Holston, the Executive Director of HRI.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) stated, “President Trump has ignored the research and data, basing [his] policies on a combination of fear, debunked information, and xenophobic pressures.”
HRI’s Director of Advocacy, Christine Mansour stated, “We have represented hundreds of asylum-seekers who presented themselves at our southern border and asked for protection, as well as people who have arrived on visas. They include political activists escaping torture, survivors of gender- and ethnic-based violence and Christians fleeing persecution. Now these same people are contributing members of our communities, working, paying taxes and helping others. HRI will not be able to help people stuck in a detention facility at the border or trapped in their home countries where they could be tortured or die. These policies make no one safer and waste resources. The executive orders are fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible.”
AILA has stated that the additional screening called for in Friday’s order “will result in significant backlogs at USCIS offices across the country, consular processing backlogs, and crowding of secondary inspection sites at U.S. Customs and Border Protection locations, stifling the business and economic contributions of those seeking to come to the U.S. This kind of screening will be time intensive and will require an enormous investment in government resources, and because it is based on the impossible task of trying to read what is in people’s hearts it will simply be used as way to screen people based on stereotypes and prejudices.” At a time where our new administration has frozen government hiring on most positions, we anticipate backlogs which will stifle the processing of asylum and other claims of immigrants who have been victims of violence, further impacting HRI clients, who are often not allowed to work while waiting for their applications to be processed.
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas opposes all policies that adversely impact its clients and other asylum seekers seeking protections from the United States.
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas is a nonprofit that provides free legal representation and social services to victims of human rights abuses living below the poverty line in the DFW area. Human Rights Initiative’s clients include victims of human rights abuses seeking asylum in the United States, victims of human trafficking, victims of spousal or child abuse at the hands of a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident, men, women and children who are the victims of a violent crime.
On Tuesday, January 10th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin holding hearings to confirm Trump-appointee Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General. Human Rights Initiative of North Texas opposes the appointment of Jeff Sessions. We ask that you join us today and call your Senators and let them know you oppose this appointment which will be dangerous for immigrants as well as many others.
Take action today to #StopSessions. Call your Senators and let them know you oppose this appointment.
Here is a sample script for when you call:
“Hello, I am a constituent and I urge the Senator to vote against Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General. I am concerned that he would not protect the rights of all people, particularly immigrants. I am troubled by his long record against civil and human rights, and worried his policies as Attorney General will harm my family, friends, and community. Please vote against his confirmation.”
Texas Senator’s Contact Information
(202) 224-2934 –DC Office
(202) 224-5922 –DC Office
Other states find your Senators here.
HRI opposes the appointment of Sessions for several reasons. Here’s why:
- He has a long and troubling history of anti-immigrant votes in the Senate. As Attorney General he will be in charge of our nation’s immigration courts as well as immigration regulations and how immigration laws are interpreted and implemented. He could change asylum laws, make it more difficult for immigrants to bond out of detention and eliminate programs that provide legal orientation to those in immigration court. Given his well-documented anti-immigrant views, this would be dangerous to our clients and all who are impacted by U.S. immigration law.
- He has opposed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) a cornerstone of our country’s protections for survivors of domestic violence, including immigrant survivors.
- Sessions is also specifically opposed helping women and children fleeing Central America.