U.S. Asylum Laws Rooted in Sacred Tradition Must Not be Traded Away for Military Aid

Right now, a group of U.S. Senators are discussing which pieces of our asylum laws they would like to cut as a bargaining tool to reach an agreement on foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine. The types of proposals being considered would re-work asylum as we know it, making it much more difficult for people to win their asylum case.

The history of the U.S. asylum and refugee laws are rooted in the sacred tradition of providing sanctuary, welcoming the sojourner in our midst, loving our neighbor, and providing humanitarian protection for those facing persecution and people unjustly criminalized. Faith communities across the country helped pass the 1980 Refugee Act that embedded our modern day asylum system into U.S. law. This Advent season, we are reminded of how Mary and Joseph searched for refuge, safety, and shelter to welcome Jesus into the world.

Anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim politics have become part of a broader effort of white supremacy, nationalism, and authoritarianism; a toxic combination that has become a global phenomena. According to the United Nations on High Commission report, “At the end of 2022, 108.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations.“

Key politicians are driving fear based narratives as a tactic to mobilize voters which often makes moderates feel they must capitulate in order to be re-elected. The Biden-Harris supplemental request includes over 5 billion dollars for Customs and Border Patrol and another 2.5 billion dollars for Immigration Customs Enforcement. The decades-long practice to militarize the border as a deterrent has failed and only created further human rights disasters, from increased deaths in the desert at record highs, to fueling violent human trafficking networks among cartels. In the midst of the current crisis in the Middle East, we must be attuned to how dehumanizing rhetoric has led to the U.S. exporting our border militarization strategies to other parts of the world in ways that have fueled division and led to conflict.

UCC congregations Such as the Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, AZ, Pilgrim UCC in Carlsbad, CA, and the Rio Grande Valley UCC of Texas are doing all they can to support humanitarian aid to migrants at the border through volunteer and community resources, but faith communities and civic society need more support. Instead of putting billions of dollars more toward Border Patrol, we should fund a robust welcome infrastructure that would allow people’s cases to be adjudicated in a timely manner, provide necessary case management service, and create speedy access work permits to fill the gaps in the current labor market shortage. We can also shore up additional channels for family reunification through encouraging the Administration to recapture hundreds of thousands of unused family visas – take action here.

If Mary and Joseph knocked on our door, we must be the ones to let them in and offer them refuge.

Asylum is a human right, not a political bargaining chip. 

Take action now through Church World Service to urge congress to welcome refugees, support newcomers and reject harmful anti-asylum policies during end of year legislative negotiations.

Rev. Noel Andersen, national field director, Church World Service and minister for immigration justice, United Church of Christ

Categories: Getting to the Root of It

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