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New Report Warns of Stark Future for U.S. Immigration System Given Current Treatment of Asylum-Seekers

"Instead of diverting resources toward keeping migrants out of this country, we need to focus our energy and capital on ensuring that their civil liberties are protected and that we’re abiding by international law,” -- Rachel Gore Freed, vice president and chief program officer

Media Contacts:
Jan Dragin, Dragin Communications, jdragin[@]gmail.com, 24/7, (339) 236-0679
Mike Givens, UUSC, mgivens[@]uusc.org, (857) 540-0617

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CAMBRIDGE, Mass./WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tuesday, July 17, 2018 — The United States is sliding rapidly down a dark path towards dismantling its well-established asylum laws, according to a report released today by human rights organization the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).

Since 2015, Hungary has severely restricted access to the country by allowing roughly 10 people per week to apply for asylum and the report, “A Cautionary Tale: The United States Follows Hungary’s Dangerous Path to Dismantling Asylum,” provides side-by-side comparisons illustrating disturbing parallels between Hungary and the United States

“Instead of diverting resources toward keeping migrants out of this country, we need to focus our energy and capital on ensuring that their civil liberties are protected and that we’re abiding by international law,” said Rachel Gore Freed, vice president and chief program officer for UUSC. Freed, a human rights attorney, was in Budapest, Hungary in May to meet with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), a UUSC partner, which helps asylum-seekers fight unlawful legal cases and confront actions that threaten to break down asylum systems.

The “Cautionary Tale” report highlights four steps the Hungarian government, as identified by HHC, has taken to systematically dismantle its asylum system and shows those same steps as taken by the United States:

  • Increasing numbers of asylum-seekers are denied access
  • Asylum-seekers experience hostile conditions upon arrival
  • The government removes safeguards for asylum-seekers
  • The government obstructs the integration of refugees

Startling parallels between the United States and Hungary include Hungary’s established 325-mile razor wire fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border and 700 miles of fence at the U.S. southern border — as well as Trump’s continued pressure for a wall. The Trump administration has implemented multi-pronged efforts to curb the flow of refugees to the United States, halt immigration at the southern border, and end immigration policies that have otherwise offered asylum and legal status for different immigrant groups.

As to the hostile conditions met by asylum-seekers on arrival, detention of refugees is now the rule of law in Hungary, and they face police pushbacks at the border, through a law allowing refugees caught in the country without legal documentation to be removed by any means to Serbia. The United States is now criminalizing immigration as part of the administration’s “zero tolerance policy,” including prosecuting as “illegal entry” immigrants who cross the border outside of designated ports of entry.

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called out both Hungary and the United States for its policies, rights abuses and treatment of asylum-seekers,” said Freed. “Trump’s controversial executive order heinously separating families at the border raised protests to such a degree that the administration has backed down,” she continued. “By judicial decree, the administration must reunite those more than 2,000 separated children with their parents by July 25, whether those families are deported from the country or not.”

The report, available to download here, offers specific robust recommendations and legislative actions to prevent the further alienation of migrants including decriminalizing unauthorized access to the country and more robust oversight over the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, among others.

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UUSC advances human rights and social justice around the world, partnering with those who confront unjust power structures and mobilizing to challenge oppressive policies.