Yet Another Brick in Trump’s Border Wall: A Blanket Ban on Asylum at the U.S. Borders

By Andrea Cárcamo, CVT senior policy counsel

Andrea Cárcamo, CVT senior policy counsel

When President Trump spoke of building a wall during his xenophobic presidential campaign, we knew he meant a physical structure between Mexico and the U.S. While his calls for this wall made headlines week after week even after he was elected, the true wall closing access to immigrants and asylum seekers was slowly, but very tangibly, being built through policies pushed forward by his administration, with the apparent goal of stopping at all costs the entry into the United States of some of the most vulnerable people in the world — asylum-seekers.

In the past three and a half years, these policies have been decimating the right to seek asylum — brick by brick. And now, as the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration has shut down the right to seek asylum completely under the guise of protecting people from the pandemic. On March 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order closing the border for 30 days, and in May extended the order indefinitely.

Consistent with previous xenophobic orders, the president is using the CDC to deviate attention from his failure to respond to the pandemic by redirecting the blame toward immigrants, and the CDC essentially gave the Trump administration the green light to impose the policy it has been working toward — closing the borders. Such action is a matter of life or death for many. The policy is expelling asylum seekers to places where they are very likely to be tortured or persecuted. At least 21,000 migrants have been deported under this rapid process by Border Patrol since March 2020, including asylum seekers and more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors. And now during the pandemic, asylum seekers fleeing violence continue to face the spread of coronavirus with the scantest of protections in place.

Here at CVT, we are well aware that a significant portion of asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S. border looking for protection are survivors of torture. But these expulsions allow for no meaningful inquiry to determine if those expelled will face death, torture, discrimination or other forms of violence if they are returned. These are grievous violations of the United States’ non-refoulement obligations under both the Convention against Torture and the Refugee Convention. Furthermore, the administration’s actions expose torture survivors to both re-traumatization and re-victimization regardless of whether they remain near the border or are deported back to their home countries.

Asylum seekers have the right to seek protection in the United States as required by domestic and international law. I strongly urge concerned readers to reach out to their Congressional representatives and the CDC director to demand lifting of the border closure. The president is exploiting a global crisis as a means to racist, bigoted ends. It is an irrationally cruel stance to take when the world needs wisdom and compassion.

The Center for Victims of Torture™ (CVT) is dedicated to healing survivors and ending torture.

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