Central Florida’s Hope CommUnity Center decries Washington’s latest move for political points.
Orlando, FL (January 31, 2024) – President Joe Biden has recently stated he is willing to close the U.S.-Mexico border as he aims to secure an agreement in Congress that would also provide funding for Ukraine. Additionally, a bipartisan immigration deal is being discussed in the U.S. Senate which would grant the President the power to temporarily halt asylum processing during periods of high border crossings by asylum seekers and migrants. Hope CommUnity Center decries this turn of events as morally and legally wrong.
The right to seek asylum to escape war, violence, and human rights abuse was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II. The U.S. Congress adopted key provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention into federal law when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980. Under federal and international law, closing the border is not an option. Further, it is crucial to remember that there are over 700,000 American citizens in Florida with mixed immigration status households, who are eagerly waiting for President Biden to protect them. Instead, the Biden administration has seemingly caved into political pressure and is even willing to resurrect Title 42, the controversial Trump-era measure under which migrants were returned over the border and denied the right to seek asylum, while unaccompanied minors were held in deplorable conditions.
“Our country is facing a defining moment,” said Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, Executive Director of HopeCommUnity Center, Central Florida’s oldest immigrant advocacy group. “Are we still a beacon of hope and freedom? While the leadership of both parties continues to use asylum seekers as a political football, we are stuck with a real humanitarian crisis on our hands. At Hope CommUnity Center, we support hundreds of asylum seekers each month. They only want to live fear-free lives and be able to work. We can’t lose sight of our values.”
The Biden administration needs to lead with empathy and be unapologetic about doing what is morally right instead of making it more difficult for asylum seekers. It should stop the practice of jailing them at the border and use those funds to process asylum petitions instead. It should hire more immigration judges who currently have an average of 5,000 cases per judge. It should also do a better job at supporting communities that are receiving these immigrants, like the state of Florida, foster innovation by broadening access for immigrants with special skills, and outline a path to citizenship to 11 million already here.
Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet is available for interviews on how to deal with this problem humanely, ethically, and legally, as well as on the effect that closing the border would have on Florida and the nation.
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