AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

Administration Plans Unnecessary and Unconscionable Ban on Asylum Seekers Masked Behind False Public Health Premise

7/8/20 AILA Doc. No. 20070840. Asylum, Removal & Relief


Maria Frausto

George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, the Trump Administration announced a soon-to-be-published proposed rule that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to ban people from seeking asylum in the United States solely because they traveled from or through a country under threat by a serious disease. For the first time, the Trump administration would also ban “withholding of removal,” a related form of protection that the Department of Justice has previously agreed in court it cannot eliminate without violating international law. The government has given only 30 days for the public to comment on this proposed rule.

American Immigration Lawyers Association President Jennifer Minear stated, “Protecting our nation’s health and security is vital, but this sweeping ban on asylum seekers is entirely unnecessary and unjustified. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other federal agencies already have the tools they need to keep our nation safe from anyone who might have a serious communicable disease, including stringent immigration screening procedures and laws that protect against public health risks. The United States has among the highest COVID-19 infection rates worldwide, so the real threat of COVID-19 is not outside our nation’s borders but within them. Like the prior CDC order from March that was recently extended indefinitely to ban asylum seekers, this is an unconscionable attempt to scapegoat vulnerable people who are seeking humanitarian protection under the pre-textual ruse of safeguarding the public health. The redundant nature of this ban also makes it clear that this is a backstop in case the courts strike down the border bans already implemented by this administration. America can and must process the applications of asylum seekers arriving at our borders in an orderly and humane fashion while still protecting the public welfare.”

Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said “We stand with all Americans in wanting to keep everyone safe and healthy during this pandemic. However, this proposed regulation does not do that. There are existing legal mechanisms in place to address public health concerns. Instead, this proposed rule is part of an ongoing effort to scapegoat asylum seekers for a virus that is already widespread in the United States. The proposal is simply a pretext to implement a drastic change to our immigration system that the administration has sought from day one – the elimination of asylum in the United States. How we treat vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic will define our true character as a nation for years to come. America can be a leader in public health, rule of law, and compassion.”



The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

The American Immigration Council works to strengthen America by shaping how America thinks about and acts towards immigrants and immigration and by working toward a more fair and just immigration system that opens its doors to those in need of protection and unleashes the energy and skills that immigrants bring. The Council brings together problem solvers and employs four coordinated approaches to advance change—litigation, research, legislative and administrative advocacy, and communications. Follow the latest Council news and information on and Twitter @immcouncil.

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