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Biden Executive Order to Close U.S. Border Places Thousands at Risk

U.S. President Joe Biden’s new executive order placing arbitrary limits on asylum claims at the U.S. border subjects thousands of people escaping life-threatening violence to further risk and trauma, said Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today. 

The restrictions, announced today, activate when the seven-day average for daily crossings reaches 2,500 people attempting to cross the border, a threshold that current daily totals already exceed, meaning the shutdown can go into effect immediately. 

The introduction of this order follows other extreme restrictions, including the “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” Rule that already presumptively denies individuals the right to claim asylum or other forms of protection on U.S. soil at any coastal border or near the U.S.-Mexico border unless they have prearranged a specific time and location to present at a port of entry through CBP One, sought protection from another country they have passed through, or qualify under narrowly defined exceptional circumstances.  

The following statement in response to the Executive Order is attributable to Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, PHR’s Medical Director

“The United States has both a legal and moral obligation to process people exercising their human right to seek asylum on U.S. soil, with safety and dignity. We are gravely concerned by this executive order, which perpetuates a disturbing pattern of blocking and expelling people fleeing life-threatening violence and attempting to exercise their human right to seek safe haven. 

When the United States detains or arbitrarily expels asylum seekers from the country, it not only denies the rights and safety of those seeking asylum, it also constitutes cruel violations of human rights, domestic, and international law. This order is likely to cause significant harm to a population that is already at extreme risk: individuals, children and families who are forced to reside in dangerous border towns do not have adequate health care or protection.  People waiting to cross the border are routinely targeted for kidnappings, torture, rape, and brutal violence. As PHR has documented, many of these individuals are fleeing gang violence, torture, sexual violence, and other forms of life-threatening insecurity. This order will only exacerbate a humanitarian crisis, leaving those residing in some of Mexico’s border towns to face continued psychological trauma and health harms. 

PHR remains committed to supporting the internationally recognized right to seek asylum. We call on the U.S. government to reverse its continued campaign to construct barriers to asylum. The United States should direct its resources to processing asylum claims in a timely and humane manner, rather than on preventing people from accessing the asylum adjudication system altogether.” 

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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