Last week, the Biden administration issued a proposed administrative rule that will effectively bar most of the migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border from asylum. Under the rule, a migrant who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization and who did not seek asylum in a third country that they traveled through on the way to the U.S. will be presumed ineligible for asylum. The new rule violates Biden’s campaign promise of a just asylum system. It will make accessing asylum virtually impossible for non-Mexican migrants who arrive at the southwest border. With asylum rules stacked against them, migrants will be sent back to countries where their lives will be in danger.
As we wrote in our blog post about the new rule, it is currently in a 30-day public comment period that ends on March 27. Since this rule is an administrative change made by a federal agency, not a law passed by Congress, it must go through a comment period. Public comments are statements for the official record about a proposed rule. Agency officials are required to read all the public comments and publicly respond to all of them. At this stage, public comment is the best way to advocate against the asylum ban: decisionmakers will read the comments.
This is a chance for you to advise the administration to cancel the rule. Last summer, the General Assembly declared that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a sanctuary and accompaniment church committed to walking with and supporting immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Submitting a public comment in defense of the right to seek asylum is one way of living out this call.
Possible talking points for public comments:
- Everyone has a moral and legal right to seek asylum from dangerous conditions. Arbitrary qualifications and prerequisites for asylum, like the ability to use an app or get a passport, violate this right. It is not acceptable to impose these restrictions.
- New immigration pathways for some cannot come at the expense of asylum for others. Our asylum system must work for the most vulnerable migrants who cannot access or afford to wait for new pathways.
- Under the rule, asylum seekers will be sent back to places where their lives will be in danger.
- A wealthy and democratic nation like the United States has a duty to provide hope for the most vulnerable. Turning away asylum seekers violates this duty.
Tips for submitting public comments:
- Add a unique message. Identical comments will be counted as one comment. To ensure your comment is read, write it yourself. You can use templates like the one in the comment portal, but be sure to add your own message.
- A comment with a couple sentences about why the rule is immoral is enough. While you can certainly write a longer comment that draws on personal or professional experience you may have, you don’t need to have legal or professional expertise to write an effective comment. The staffers who will be reading your comments likely want to do the right thing. Don’t underestimate the power that receiving lots of comments about the rule’s violation of human dignity and Christian teachings could have on them.
- If your church engages in sanctuary and accompaniment ministries, you may feel called to talk about that work. Just remember privacy. These comments are public. Do not share other people’s stories unless you have their consent, and do not share any information related to pending immigration or asylum cases.
- Anyone can submit a comment, but comments must be written in English or have a translation included. Both individuals and organizations (including congregations) can submit comments.
- The deadline is March 27, 2023. Comments will be accepted until midnight eastern time at the end of the day.
Click here to be taken to a portal that will help you submit a public comment. To use the portal, enter your information in the form. Once you have entered your information, add to and/or edit the sample message to make it unique.
Looking for more help with writing a public comment? Here are some resources:
We published a detailed analysis of the impacts of the rule on the Office of Public Witness Blog.
The Episcopal Church is hosting a webinar on Friday, March 3 at 1 PM. Register here.
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