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Human rights group to Trump’s new executive rule: Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s an asylum ban.

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Unitarian Universalist Service Committee leaders say the administration action is ‘profoundly dangerous and unnecessary escalation,’ ‘steeped in white nationalism’

Executive action counter to current U.S. asylum law and international laws 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass./WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friday, November 9, 2018 —
The international human rights organization Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) voiced alarm today over President Donald Trump’s new rule and proclamation claiming national security powers that would permit declaring whole populations ineligible for asylum.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. This is essentially an asylum ban,” says UUSC Vice President of Programs and human rights lawyer Rachel Gore Freed, “and marks a profoundly dangerous escalation in his continued efforts to wear down and erase human rights protections for immigrants and asylum seekers.”

Freed said, “Attacking asylum is beyond the pale of conventional politics or partisan debate and further evidence that the president’s immigration agenda is steeped in white nationalism.

“The executive action’s provisions signal that the first targets of this self-determined power will be people who request asylum outside official U.S. points of entry. We know this is tied to President Trump’s racist and fear-mongering campaign against migrants and asylum seekers from Central America,” she said.

“But the move directly contravenes current U.S. asylum law, which explicitly allows anyone to apply for asylum within the United States ‘whether or not at a designated port of arrival.”

Freed said that, while the proposed rule acknowledges existing law, the White House is asserting broad powers for the President and the Attorney General, redefining their ability to restrict the right to seek asylum in the United States.

“This rule is an extreme case of executive abuse and overreach. The Trump administration is using the same playbook that it used to force an unjust and immoral ‘Muslim Ban’ through the courts,” said Freed.

UUSC and its partners in Eastern Europe recently published a report examining parallels between the Trump administration and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s efforts to roll back human rights and limit legal immigration. One of Orbán’s early moves was to restrict asylum to designated ports of entry and slow the processing of asylum-seekers to a trickle, leaving thousands stranded and at risk.

Trump’s proposed regulation claims that it does not violate U.S. human rights obligations because it still allows individuals to apply for a different status, “withholding of removal.”

UUSC’s Freed countered, saying, “This ‘withholding of removal’ status is not only less protective, it requires a higher burden of proof. That of course is a difficult requirement to meet, particularly for people who may have lost access to key documentation as they fled their homes in search of safety.

“Most disturbingly, the rule states that a grant of withholding of removal would still not prevent the U.S. from deporting someone to a third country that it deems to be a safe alternative,” she said.

“The lives and safety of millions of individuals depend on the United States maintaining a robust asylum system that meets our obligations under international law. By striking at the heart of this system, Trump endangers human life and our values as a nation,” said Freed.

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