FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 6, 2024
Contact: Cristina Velez, email@example.com
ASISTA Urges Senators to Reject Border Deal that Exposes Immigrant Survivors to Further Trauma, Hardship, and Violence
After months of opaque negotiations, a small group of senators released a bill on Sunday, February 4, 2024 that would eviscerate access to asylum, create a dangerous new statutory authority to expel asylum-seekers from the United States, expand detention, and limit review of decisions. The bill includes some positive changes, such as protections for Afghan arrivals and increased funding for representation and resettlement. If passed, however, this legislation would condemn immigrant survivors fleeing gender-based violence to further harm, trauma, and potentially death. ASISTA urges the Senate and White House to immediately reverse course and reject this harmful bill.
ASISTA is deeply concerned by several of the bill’s provisions that would curtail the rights of immigrant survivors seeking asylum. First, the bill’s new fast-track asylum process, which contemplates an asylum decision within 90 days of arrival in the United States, sets immigrant survivors up to fail. No asylum seeker should be rushed through the dizzyingly complex U.S. asylum system, particularly as it is widely known that trauma impairs the ability of survivors to tell a linear story under the immense pressure of a formal proceeding. Immigrant survivors need support to heal and to find safe shelter, food, clothing, and medical treatment for themselves and their children. They need access to trauma-informed and language-accessible mental health professionals and legal representatives. Although the bill includes increased funding for representation of unaccompanied minors and persons deemed not competent, the vast majority of immigrant survivors would be left out in the cold.
We also strongly oppose the bill’s expansion of detention and surveillance of asylum seekers. Both of these provisions would expose immigrant survivors to additional harms and inhibit their ability to access confidential, community-based services. Such intrusive monitoring is stigmatizing, and would be highly re-traumatizing to immigrant survivors who have had their movements tracked by abusers, or who have suffered surveillance by the government in their country of origin because of their religion, political views, or LGBTQ+ identity. Moreover, under this bill, immigrant survivors facing life-or-death situations would have fewer appellate protections than plaintiffs in small claims court. This is also unacceptable. The bill provides virtually no time to file appeals. Even for those few who could file timely appeals, in all but the most extraordinary cases, the only review available is by an appellate panel of three more asylum officers. ASISTA opposes the virtually unchecked discretionary authority and evisceration of judicial review contemplated by this bill.
Kirsten Rambo, Executive Director of ASISTA, states,
“ASISTA stands with immigrant survivors of gender-based violence by opposing this legislation. The restrictions on asylum contained in this bill leave immigrant survivors more vulnerable to violence, and separated from the trauma-informed, community-based supports and representation that are crucial to healing and the ability to present claims for much-needed relief. Despite some of the positive aspects of the bill, we oppose any deal that leaves immigrant survivors suffering, isolated, and at greater risk of further harm.”
ASISTA urges its members, partners, and everyone who cares about survivors to join us and countless other immigrant rights organizations in moving swiftly to oppose this bill.
Established in 2008, ASISTA is a national leader in the movement for safety and justice for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. ASISTA’s founders helped write the immigration provisions of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (TVPA), affording legal status to hundreds of thousands of survivors and their children since 1994. With over 2,500 members nationwide, ASISTA’s work is focused on 1) providing expert case consultation, training, and resources to attorneys and advocates navigating the complex immigration system on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence, including intervening in specific cases as needed; 2) pushing for federal, state and local policies that ensure safety and justice for immigrant survivors; and 3) coordinating lawsuits to prevent the government from unfairly deporting survivors of violence. To learn more about ASISTA’s work, click here. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, and LinkedIn.