RCUSA offers remarks on VP Harris and Central American migration

Washington, DC —  We are concerned by Vice President Harris’s “do not come” message, delivered last week in Guatemala, which echoes the harmful and xenophobic positions of the Trump administration, despite President Biden’s promise of a new approach to address migration from Central America.

Consistent with the Vice President’s rhetoric, the administration continues to rely on a Trump-era directive, known as Title 42, that turns back most asylum seekers at the border, denying people the legal right to claim asylum in the United States.

People who decide to make the treacherous journey to the United States do not make this decision lightly. Many Central Americans are fleeing gang violence, persecution, and corrupt governments that make it unsafe to live in their home countries. Under our laws and our international commitments, the United States is obligated to allow them to request asylum and seek protection.

Let us be clear: seeking asylum in the United States is legal. Denying anyone their right to make a legal claim of asylum is a violation of US and international law.

Yet significant barriers to seeking asylum and safety persist. Most notably, the administration continues to carry out Title 42 expulsions, through which hundreds of thousands of people — mostly Black, brown, or indigenous people —  have been turned back at the border without consideration of their asylum claims, then deposited in Mexico or sent back to other home countries where many face the risk of persecution or death.

In Vice President Harris’s own words: “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders. … If you come to our border, you will be turned back.” The Vice President’s remarks dangerously misrepresent migration across Central America, erasing the real and immediate needs of those seeking protection from persecution.

As part of a comprehensive regional strategy, we must enhance safe and legal migration pathways, as well as make it easier for Central Americans to apply for asylum closer to home.  And we must also end Title 42 expulsions for those who come to our border. Despite the President’s stated intentions to restore asylum protections and our nation’s legal and moral obligations, the Biden administration continues the legacy of the Trump administration by unjustly denying people the legal right to claim asylum in the United States.

RCUSA supports the right of all people to access humanitarian protection and opposes attempts to discourage or deter individuals in danger from seeking safety for themselves and their families.

RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome. Individual RCUSA members do not all address all refugee-related issues, nor do all individual members approach common refugee-related issues identically.

Media Contact: Sarah Seniuk, sseniuk@rcusa.org