Administration efforts to intimidate asylum-seekers fly in the face of U.S. law and history

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — ­­CLINIC and our network of 330 nonprofit immigration legal services providers stand ready to protect the legally guaranteed right to asylum, including for any person who seeks it at our borders or other ports of entry.

“Our country was founded by people who fled intolerable conditions in their homelands,” said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC. Along with subsequent generations of immigrants who sought refuge here, they helped this country grow into the beacon of freedom and tolerance that the United States has become over the past century. During that period, Atkinson said, “our welcoming nature has allowed the United States to thrive, and we have suffered when we turn away from that path.”

Our laws explicitly allow refugees to seek asylum here without regard to where they enter the country—­­be it at an airport or other official port of entry or through the desert. In a televised appearance Nov. 1, President Donald Trump laid out a series of steps he intends to take to make it harder to claim asylum. He said executive orders to enact the measures would follow.

“The administration’s unprecedented efforts to intimidate with military force all those who come to our border and to undermine the legal process for obtaining asylum are illegal and immoral,” Atkinson said.

Bishop Kevin Vann, of the Diocese of Orange in California and chairman of CLINIC’s board of directors added that “we are guided by the tenets of Catholic social teaching and the laws of the United States. Whether we study theology or law, we come to the same conclusion: turning away asylum seekers is wrong, and seeking to bully and intimidate and to continue to promote an atmosphere of xenophobia is unconscionable. It sadly brings to the fore again the darker moments of how immigrants have been treated over the years in our country, I’m specifically thinking of the 'Know Nothing' movement, nativism and the rise and influence of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“We should not be afraid of those reaching out to us for help,” said Atkinson. “We walk side by side with those seeking asylum and expect our government to uphold the laws and international principles that are the bedrock of America.”

Reporters: To interview one of CLINIC’s asylum law experts, contact Patricia Zapor, communications director, at 301-565-4830.