Faith leaders call for protecting asylum seekers, urge withdrawing rule that requires asylum seekers to try elsewhere first

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — More than 250 faith leaders and organizations urged the federal government to withdraw “a backdoor asylum ban” in the form of a requirement that asylum seekers be turned away from the United States if they don’t first seek protection in countries along their way to U.S. borders.

In a public comment submitted to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the faith leaders and organizations said the Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications rule “puts people fleeing for their lives at risk of further harm, is inconsistent with our nation’s historic and moral commitment to human rights and violates existing asylum law.”

The interim final rule was announced July 15 and took effect the following day. Two lawsuits were filed and a preliminary injunction quickly blocked it. The faith leaders objected to the rule on the grounds that it puts the majority of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border at risk of further harm, and violates asylum law and the due process rights of asylum seekers.

The letter cited the teachings of the Torah, the Old Testament and the Quran, all of which call for their followers to care for and protect those from other lands.

“The rule fails to understand or acknowledge the realities of asylum seekers’ journeys and the lack of options they have been left with,” the letter said. “No one flees their home or country by choice.”

“For those passing through Northern Triangle countries and Mexico, applying for asylum and waiting for a decision from a country that has little or no ability to process such claims may put the asylum seeker at further risk of harm,” it continued.

The comment was filed Aug. 15.