ResourcesPress Release

Trump Announcement Sets Dangerous Tone and Violates Asylum Seekers’ Rights

President Trump’s announcement today to summarily deny asylum to migrants who enter the United States between ports of entry, avoiding legal border crossings, violates U.S. law and directly defies the Immigration and Nationality Act, which clearly states that anyone who arrives on U.S. soil with a credible fear of persecution has the right to apply for asylum.

As a large group of migrants makes its way from Central America toward the U.S. border, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) reminds the Trump administration that any attempt to prevent those who cross into the United States, fleeing persecution, from making asylum claims also violates the United Nations Refugee Convention, which the United States has ratified.

“President Trump’s announcement today sets a dangerous tone and threatens to outright defy U.S. legal obligations under international treaties and domestic law. Most of these migrants are coming from countries where they face widespread violence and intimidation, and many have no choice but to flee. They have a legal right to seek asylum and to have their cases heard once they have arrived on U.S. soil. Their right to seek asylum must be protected,” said PHR Asylum Network Program Officer, Kathryn Hampton.

PHR urges the Trump administration to abide by U.S. and international law and to put immediate measures in place to allow for the safe management and entry of asylum seekers into the United States. Instead of deploying thousands of troops to arm the border, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security should use its resources to enlist the partnership of experienced humanitarian groups in order to ensure that the southern border remains a humane and orderly zone, where individual rights are respected.

PHR also reiterates that any use of force should be strictly necessary, proportionate, and bound by the rule of law. Opening fire against stone-throwing migrants, as threatened today by President Trump, would clearly be an excessive use of force and would be wholly disproportionate. Even the use of so called non-lethal crowd control weapons can, according to PHR research, cause serious health harms and may represent a violation of respect for the right to life.

“The Trump administration must cease to use inflammatory labels when describing groups of desperate migrants who are in search of refuge. Blanket statements which label them as criminals and smugglers do nothing but perpetuate a false narrative. On the eve of elections and at a time of highly-charged political rhetoric, respect for human rights must not be discarded,” Hampton added.

Furthermore, PHR is alarmed by President Trump’s announcement that asylum seekers will no longer be released after being processed at the border to await the completion of their asylum cases, but instead will be detained indefinitely. Prolonged or indefinite detention violates the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Extensive research shows that the detention of migrants – especially children – causes long-term trauma, including serious physical and mental harm. PHR continues to call upon the U.S. administration to make use of viable alternatives to detention, including community-based solutions, which are at their disposal. A 20-year analysis of federal data indicates that increasing the number of immigrants released from detention on bond or parole does not result in decreased compliance with immigration proceedings. Detention centers and tent cities are no place for asylum seekers of any age, let alone children.

Read more about PHR’s Asylum Network

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.