Washington, D.C. –Yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) led 40 Members of Congress in opposing a Trump Administration proposed rule that uses the COVID-19 global health crisis as a pretext to ban asylum seekers. The proposal is the latest in a series of administrative actions that seeks to exploit the pandemic to dismantle our nation’s asylum laws.
As the Members explain in their public comment, this proposal categorically bars individuals from applying for asylum whether or not they have COVID-19 or otherwise pose any health risk, making it clear that the Administration is more concerned with shutting down our asylum system rather than protecting our public health. Public health experts and medical officials alike have repeatedly urged the Administration to withdraw these types of restrictions on asylum and withholding of removal. The Members concluded that this proposal is a pretextual and disproportionate attempt to achieve unlawful policy goals—in defiance of both the law and rational, effective, and evidence-based methods to mitigate the spread of disease.
The full text of the public comment is available here.
In addition to Chairs Nadler and Lofgren, the comment was signed by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Henry C. "Hank" Johnson (D-GA), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL).
The proposed rule is the latest attempt by the Administration to shut down asylum to the United States. In July, Chairs Nadler and Lofgren led Congressional Democrats in opposing a Trump Administration rule that would eliminate long-established procedural protections and change the standards for demonstrating eligibility for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT).In May, Chairman Nadler sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf rejecting the Administration’s legal justification for its decision to halt asylum processing during the COVID-19 pandemic.