Press Release: LAWG: Trump Administration’s Plan to Close Border Due to the Coronavirus Is Not the Answer: Now is the Time for Unity, Not Fear

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March 19, 2020
Lauri Alvarez, Program Assistant
(202) 546-7010 |  

LAWG: Trump Administration’s Plan to Close Border Due to the Coronavirus Is Not the Answer: Now is the Time for Unity, Not Fear

Washington D.C.- The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) condemns the Trump Administration’s latest plan to close the U.S.-Mexico border to asylum seekers. Under this plan, all migrants entering between ports of entry along the border would not be held in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities and be returned to Mexico without due process. This measure specifically targets asylum seekers as U.S. citizens and permanent residents would still be allowed to enter the border and commercial traffic would also proceed. It is unclear if individuals seeking protection at a port of entry would also be returned or if this policy would also apply to Mexicans. At the same time the White House has requested from Congress an additional $800 million for ICE and CBP to set up “quarantine facilities” along the U.S.-Mexico border as a part of its emergency response package.

“Closing the border to vulnerable women, men and children seeking protection at our borders is not the solution. It is shameful that the administration is using a global pandemic to pursue its anti-immigrant agenda. It has already eviscerated the asylum system by forcing over 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico. Closing the border will only further endanger their lives. This border shutdown will not make our communities healthier and safer. It will only turn away people seeking safety, yet again,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG co-director.

The administration’s plan violates international refugee law and guidelines that the UN Refugee Agency has published on access to territory for individuals in need of international protection. LAWG has been monitoring the harmful impacts of the Remain in Mexico policy and remains concerned about its implementation in the foreseeable future. While deportations to Guatemala under the safe third country agreement, or ACA seem to have been temporarily suspended, we remain concerned about the ramping up of deportations of asylum seekers to Central America under these agreements and ongoing deportations to El Salvador and Honduras due to lack of medical screening for migrants and the risk of the virus spreading to Central America.

We urge the administration to respond to the public health crisis by screening and processing all asylum seekers including those who have been forced to wait in Mexico, halting all deportations to the region, and releasing detained immigrants while providing access to medical care. Now is the time for unity and compassion, not division and fear. U.S. policies must ensure the health and safety of all our communities during this public health crisis.