January 26, 2023

Contact: Archana Pyati, [email protected]

Leaders from the Children Thrive Action Network (CTAN) have expressed concern over a new set of border enforcement measures proposed by the Biden Administration that continue harmful Trump-era immigration policies and are urging the Administration to instead take steps to protect children and families and strengthen the nation’s asylum system.

Earlier this month, President Biden announced enforcement measures that risk harming children and families searching for safety at our borders. Included in the announcement is a plan to expand the use of Title 42 to Haitian, Cuban, and Nicaraguan asylum seekers while creating a parole program for those three nations that would require applicants to linger in dangerous conditions while waiting to secure a passport, air travel, and a U.S. sponsor. Also included in the announcement is the forecast of a future regulation that will bar many children, families, and adults from being able to seek asylum if they traveled “irregularly” through Mexico or Panama to reach the border. 

The announcement expands Trump-era Title 42 expulsions and would revive a Trump-era asylum ban, both of which have historically put families in jeopardy and caused family separations. Although new immigration pathways like parole programs are positive, it is deeply problematic to offer them as a substitute for a functioning asylum system. 

“Seeking safety is a right for all; it is not a privilege for a select few. All children and families, regardless of country, race, ethnicity, language, or manner of entry, should be able to seek protection at the border through a fundamentally fair proceeding,” said Mina Dixon Davis, Policy Analyst at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “The Biden administration must uphold the right to seek asylum, not reanimate asylum bans.” 

Asylum is a legal and human right.There are humane, child-centered solutions for border reception, such as federal investment in local systems of support and placing  trained child protection experts alongside DHS law enforcement officers to prevent family separation.

“All children need safety and close connections with family in order to thrive; young children are in a particularly sensitive period of childhood where experiences can have lifelong consequences for their health and cognitive and socioemotional development,” said Children’s HealthWatch Executive Director Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba. “We urge the Biden Administration to follow the science, ensuring families can stay together, safely access humanitarian parole, and seek asylum in the United States.”

“We need border strategies that honor the right to asylum, keep families together, and ensure children’s best interests,” said First Focus on Children President Bruce Lesley. “When we ask the question, ‘Is this policy good for children?’, we will find answers that are both morally right and reasonable. The Biden Administration must ensure that children are considered in this and every policy it puts forward.”

“When children seek protection, they deserve a chance to find it,” said Patrick Bresette, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund – Texas. “They deserve a chance to recover from violence and fear. They deserve a chance at health, education, and protection from harm. We call on the Biden Administration to uphold asylum as a human right and ensure all families fleeing from violence have access to due process and fair proceedings at the border.” 

“When children’s futures are threatened–when conflict, poverty, or persecution endanger their survival–they and their families may be compelled to leave home in order to seek safe haven,” said Wendy Cervantes, Director of Immigration and Immigrant Families at the Center for Law and Social Policy. “It runs contrary to our nation’s values to turn away the most vulnerable children. The bottom line is that when we protect children, we protect everyone.” 

President Biden’s announcement is dangerous and likely to intensify devastating harm to families–especially Black and brown families. The Biden administration must reverse anti-asylum policies and reinstate children and families’ right to seek safety in this country. 

To learn more about the Children Thrive Action Network, please visit www.childrenthriveaction.org