August 12, 2020
KIND commented on a proposed rule that would create a new bar to asylum eligibility permitting DHS and DOJ to find that a person who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, such as Covid-19, represents a danger to the security of the United States and is therefore barred from both asylum and withholding of removal. If implemented, the new bar would likely be applied to prevent virtually everyone entering the United States – especially at the southern border – from applying for asylum or withholding of removal given the prevalence of Covid-19 around the world. The rule extends to a wide range of infectious diseases, many of which are highly treatable and pose varying levels of risk to the general community. The rule would be particularly devastating for unaccompanied children, as it completely ignores not only the specific protections accorded to child asylum seekers under the TVPRA, but it also fails to acknowledge or respect existing protocols for protecting the health of children.
“This particular rule hides behind the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic to institute a sweeping and unlawful ban on asylum and withholding of removal in the name of public health and national security, conflating the two policy objectives in an attempt to justify a dramatic overhaul of the U.S. protection system. The Proposed Rule flouts clear U.S. law and international treaty obligations through which this nation committed to offer refuge to the persecuted. In addition, it ignores specific provisions of law designed to facilitate the fair and humane treatment of unaccompanied children, including ensuring that they have access to asylum and other forms of protection Congress has created.”
Public health experts have denounced the rule as well, arguing that it offers no protection to the U.S. from a public health perspective and will only serve to further the spread of Covid-19 as the U.S. attempts to rapidly return individuals at our borders with no screening or assistance.