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Faith-based groups, including PC(USA), sound off about broken asylum system

Letter to Biden calls for ‘fair, dignified and efficient’ system for people seeking safety

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

A view of the Sulphur Springs Valley, looking west from International Boundary Marker 83, along the U.S.-Mexico border. (File photo by Christy Bergdoerf)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is among 165 faith-based organizations that have signed onto a letter opposing actions that they fear will lead to a new asylum ban in the United States to address continued challenges at the Southwest border.

The Jan. 23 letter urges President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to “ensure that people seeking safety have access to a fair, dignified and efficient asylum process.”

The letter comes in the wake of new immigration restrictions that, according to an announcement by the Biden administration on Jan. 5, are intended to “increase security at the border and reduce the number of individuals crossing unlawfully between ports of entry.” The actions by the US are being taken in partnership with Mexico and governments across the western Hemisphere.

“The measures, which reflect a political shift to the center for Biden, will broaden his authority to grant legal entry to tens of thousands of Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Haitians into the country each month,” The Washington Post reported. “But migrants from those countries who attempt to enter the United States without authorization will risk rapid expulsion to Mexico, as the administration plans to expand its use of a pandemic-era public health immigration policy known at Title 42.”

In the opposition letter, the PC(USA) and co-signers, such as the National Council of Churches, the Franciscan Action Network, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the American Friends Service Committee, acknowledge that there are “real challenges at the U.S.-Mexico border” and that “the U.S. asylum system is in dire need of meaningful reform.” However, there must be “a moral and human-centered response,” instead of one that emphasizes punitive measures, the letter states.

“As 165 faith-based organizations and congregations across traditions, we write with grave concern about the forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will set in motion an asylum ban in the form of a rule that bars people from asylum if they enter without inspection or do not seek protection in countries of transit,” the letter states. ”While we recognize your announcement included an action to expand limited pathways to Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans for humanitarian reasons, the parole process is not an equivalent substitute for access to asylum — nor should it ever be coupled with an expansion of harmful anti-asylum policies like Title 42.”

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness has been sounding an alarm about the issue, stating last week in an Action Alert, “Now is the time to raise your voice to condemn anti-asylum policies and the trauma they inflict and urge the government to invest in humanely welcoming migrants and asylum seekers. Contact your members of Congress today!”

To read the Action Alert, go here. Additional information can be found in the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance blog.

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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