BNHR Statement Responding to CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan’s Remarks on Asylum Seekers.
The following statement can be attributed to Fernando Garcia
Founder and Executive Director of Border Network for Human Rights.
“Commissioner McAleenan’s statement earlier this morning in El Paso presented a vision from CBP and this Administration that couches efforts to undermine due process and the legal immigration system, with tired, racist tropes about migrants, all under a facade of talk about humanitarianism and well-being.
So let’s be clear about a few things Commissioner McAleenan mentioned:
First, asylum seekers are not criminals. Asylum is a lawful process and migrants need to have an ability to claim asylum. Denying migrants, the ability to claim asylum at ports, as our laws are designed to work, may force them to cross without authorization, but does not make them criminals or undermine their asylum claims in any way. Painting migrants as criminals poisons the well and shows that this Administration is not working to provide good faith solutions to the challenges we face.
Second, the trope of ‘disease bearing migrants’ is old, tired, and deeply racist. This is an utter lie. It is a lie that has been used throughout our past to justify racial segregation, oppression, and even violence. It is pernicious and destructive and it is unacceptable for someone in Commissioner McAleenan’s position to be furthering such smears.
Third, the actions laid out and put forward by Commissioner McAleenan are unacceptable and will only further this Administration’s work of breaking the legal immigration system. We are repeatedly told that our ports-of-entry lack the resources to process asylum seekers, but rather than invest in more personnel, asylum officers, and infrastructure, Commissioner McAleenan said that CBP will redeploy 750 officers away from the ports. This is backward. This is not a solution to a broken system, this is a move to break a system that has, could, and should work. Moreover, coming before the cross-border traffic spike at Easter this will lead to needlessly long backlogs at ports-of-entry.
Likewise, calls to undermine asylum laws and do away with protections for unaccompanied minors are an attack on due process—a fundamental value of our laws and legal system. Any action that would undermine due process is not about fixing a broken system, it is about breaking that system to expose people to unaccountable enforcement and abuse. All of what the Commissioner laid out, whether providing more funding for ICE, calling for asylum cases to be adjudicated in a matter of weeks, and for CBP to directly release people to the streets if they cannot hold them for weeks in detention—as is their preference, is about breaking our immigration system and sowing a crisis this administration is determined to create rather than providing real solutions.
Finally, we invite Commissioner McAleenan to tell the Irish of the 1840’s or the Italians of the 1890’s that poverty and starvation are not reasons to come to seek the opportunity, welcome, and grace of these United States. Consistently this Administration has attacked America’s values and the Commissioner’s remarks this morning are a stark reminder that what is at stake is who we are as a people and who we wish to be. Will we criminalize and dehumanize, or will we let a new generation of migrants pursue the American Dream making our society richer and better.
Rather than the Commissioner’s wrong-headed, anti-American, racist anti-immigrant agenda we need to take a different approach. We need to invest in asylum officers, personnel and infrastructure at ports-of-entry, and the processes to make our asylum system in ways that uplift our values and the humanity of all persons. We need to invest in alternatives to detention, such as a case management program with a 99.3% court appearance rate, that the Trump Administration cut funding for, even over objections from ICE. And we need to invest in welcoming and integration centers to help migrants come to the U.S. safely and legally, with an understanding of their rights and their obligations in their new home, and with access to the resources that will help them and their communities thrive. These are real solutions that advance American values, will improve the well-being of American communities, protect due process, and uplift the humanity of everyone.”
The Border Network for Human Rights, founded in 1998, is one of the leading human rights advocacy and immigration reform organizations located at the U.S./Mexico Border. BNHR has over 7,000 members in West Texas and Southern New Mexico.