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White House Must Not Sacrifice U.S. Asylum System in Funding Negotiations: PHR

In response to reports that the White House and congressional leaders are considering overhauls to the U.S. asylum system as a compromise to secure funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, the following quote is attributable to Michele Heisler, MD, MPH, medical director at PHR and professor of internal medicine and public health at the University of Michigan. 

“The extreme, Trump-era immigration policies reportedly being considered by the White House would gut the U.S. asylum system, skyrocket ICE detention and deportations, and institute border expulsion policies like Title 42, which was widely opposed by the medical community. This time around, U.S. officials are reportedly not even trying to offer the same spurious public health arguments they used to justify Title 42. Physicians for Human Rights — whose 30-year-old PHR Asylum Network comprises more than 2,000 health care providers nationwide — condemns such inhumane and likely illegal policies. 

“As one of the few human rights organizations that works on policies related to both U.S. asylum and Ukraine, we know that it is unconscionable to use people fleeing persecution as bargaining chips to secure assistance to Ukraine and other U.S. allies. Just yesterday, we published a case study about Russia’s relentless targeting of health care personnel and patients in Ukraine. We fully understand what is at stake with respect to aid for Ukraine. It is unconscionable to hold negotiations on this critically important funding bill hostage to acceptance of policies that egregiously deny the internationally and nationally recognized right to present claims for asylum. The United States can and must support Ukraine against Russian aggression while safeguarding the asylum system. 

“President Biden and Congress are at risk of repeating failed policies. The policies being considered do not effectively enable safe and orderly processing of people and their asylum claims, but instead compound the suffering of thousands of people at the U.S. border and nationwide.  

“Denying the rights and safety of those seeking asylum, rounding up immigrants for detention and mass deportations, and arbitrarily expelling people from the country would constitute cruel violations of human rights. PHR has documented the debilitating physical and psychological health impacts from human rights violations under policies now being debated. These include detention, Title 42 expulsions, and other inhumane border expulsion policies. PHR calls on the Biden administration and Congress to soundly reject these draconian policies.”

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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