PROTECTING IMMIGRANT RIGHTS
Those of Native American heritage notwithstanding, we all have an immigrant story in the United States. Immigrants are not only welcome, but they are us: our family, our neighbors, and our friends. At BFI we work to ensure immigrants, refugees, and all those who have been forced to migrate are welcome in the United States by protecting their rights and ensuring they have a welcoming community to support them in their new home.
We Work To:
PROTECT AND SUPPORT ASLYUM SEEKERS
What is Asylum?
Asylum is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or arriving at the border who meet the international law definition of a “refugee.” The United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol define a refugee as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” Congress incorporated this definition into U.S. immigration law in the Refugee Act of 1980.
The Refugee Act of 1980, established two paths to obtain refugee status:
From abroad as a resettled refugee.
At the border or while in the United States as an asylum seeker.
Seeking asylum is a human right and any who claim asylum must be heard. All claims must be adjudged fairly and independently. However, since 2017, executive orders, administrative rules, policies, and practices have made it almost impossible to seek asylum in the U.S., especially at the U.S.- Mexico border.
The Expulsion of Asylum Seekers at the Southern Border in 2021
Since the beginning of February 2021 hundreds of migrants, mainly migrants of color were forced on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) planes and hastily deported back to the dangers they fled from. They were not afforded the chance to access asylum, adequate due process, and humanitarian protections.
Lives continue to be in jeopardy and time is of the essence. Immediate and sustained action must take place to protect migrants. President Biden can end Title 42 and Congress must ask him to do so immediately. This will end the Trump administration’s deadly and discriminatory Title 42 expulsion policy, suspending all deportation flights allowing true due process to determine who can, or cannot be afforded humanitarian protection.
The Title 42 expulsion policy was introduced on March 19, 2020 after the Trump administration directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue an order, blocking immigrants from seeking asylum while allowing all economic and other travelers to enter the U.S. The Biden administration has continued this awful Trump-era policy.
We reiterate urgent recommendations to end the misuse of Title 42, based on which the U.S. government expels asylum seekers to danger, in violation of U.S. refugee law. Leading public health experts have repeatedly explained that the policy “has no scientific basis as a public health measure.” Its continued implementation prevents those waiting at ports of entry from seeking asylum, precipitating needless family separations, and particularly harms African and Haitian asylum seekers who are disparately impacted by this illegal policy.
Amidst the chaos of numerous overlapping policies in operation at the border, Covid-19 came to define the border as the overarching threat to the sanctity of our asylum system. With the most recent policy that has allowed the administration to use the mask of our public health crisis to effectively end asylum at the border for the foreseeable future, this document explains key asylum policies currently impacting the border as of October 1, 2020.
More than 26 million people around the world have fled violence and persecution seeking refuge. Over
half of those who have fled are children. For almost one-third of refugees, resettlement to a safe country is their only hope for building a future for themselves and their children.
Before 2017 the United States led by example and upheld its values of welcome by resettling many
refugees. Refugees overwhelmingly give back to the communities that welcome them, opening businesses, volunteering, and becoming actively engaged citizens.
Bridges Faith Initiative helps refugees through advocacy and support services for integration. Together with our 7000 strong faith leader supporters we advocate at both the Federal and State level in the U.S., to ensure just and humane immigration policies.
END IMMIGRANT DETENTION
Immigrant Detention degrades. Immigrant detention in the United States is an affront to the values of people of faith. Imprisoning people who flee their countries to seek safety in the United States is immoral, cruel, and an unnecessary expense. The United States taxpayer spends more to incarcerate immigrants than any other enforcement practice. Despite the enormous per capita expense, immigrants languid in overcrowded, unsanitary, and unsafe conditions. Immigrants in detention are often prevented from communicating with the outside world by phone or mail, making coordination with legal counsel or contact with family members virtually impossible. Immigrant detention is an unnecessary deterrent and is unjust: the majority of immigrants released in communities (as opposed to being detained) return for their appointed court hearings, which brings into question the overreliance of incarceration.
At BFI, we acknowledge our share humanity with immigrants in detention and seek to end the degrading practice of detention. Until then, we stand in active and prayerful solidarity with those in custody.
Women's Health in Detention
Women face unique hardships and health risks in detention, ranging from sexual exploitation to unethical medical procedures performed without proper consent. The recent news of medical abuse in Ocilla, GA’s Irwin County Detention Center, demonstrates how immigrant incarceration by design creates the conditions for immigrant women’s exploitation. Through the story at Irwin County Detention Cener is particularly egregious, it is not the only case of unacceptable medical conduct carried out on those detained in immigrant detention centers.
Women who speak up against unhygienic conditions and medical abuse face retribution, including swift deportations that make thorough investigations and justice elusive. We cannot allow female’s detained by the immigration detention system to continue to face psychological, medical, and physical trauma.
BFI seeks cases of medical neglect and abuse as symptoms of the longstanding systemic issue of dehumanizing immigrants, particularly women of color. We are on the ground at Irwin Detention Center to offer support to these women and are advocating before Congress.
Immigrant Children's Rights in Detention
Love, Not Lockups. Our faiths tell us children are blessings to be loved and cherished, not locked up. Immigrant children’s rights matter but are sadly tramped under the current administration. Affirming the value of minor’s and their vulnerabilities, BFI works to end family separation and the practice of detaining and deporting minors. We advocate for policies that serve the best interest of immigration children, including family reunification and release to qualified family members regardless of those sponsors’ immigration status. Sending one’s child to another country to escape the dangers at home is a desperate, last-ditch act of hope. Therefore, we seek specific protections for unaccompanied minors.
At BFI, we look to bolster immigrant children’s and youths’ rights in the following three areas:
Detention is no place for families.
Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) is detaining hundreds of immigrant families with children at one of three "residential" facilities:
BFI seeks an end to immigration detenttion and considers the release of families with children as a particularly urgent policy imperative.