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This article was originally published on February 21, 2023.

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Department of Homeland Security issued a proposed rule that would drastically limit eligibility for asylum for many people seeking safety at our Southern border. Under these new regulations, a person seeking asylum at a U.S. port of entry on the Southern border who does not have an appointment or traveled through another country without applying for protection there first will be considered ineligible for asylum here – with few exceptions. This asylum ban cuts off a critical path to safety for survivors and sends them back to dangerous conditions where they often face further violence and trauma. 

“The purpose of asylum is to protect, not punish, people in desperate circumstances fleeing for their lives,” said Casey Carter Swegman, Director of Public Policy. “While the administration has repeatedly promised to promote a fair and humane asylum system, the impact of this new rule will mean that many survivors of gender-based and other violence will be swiftly sent back into harm’s way. This rule would extinguish the last beacon of hope for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”  

Deciding whether someone could have successfully obtained protection from another country or made an appointment is a matter best left to a U.S. asylum officer or immigration judge in the context of a fair hearing that promotes due process. An outright ban simply keeps out those who might qualify under the law. 

Everyone who comes to the U.S. seeking safety – no matter where they are from or how they arrived – must be given a fair chance to show why they fear persecution in their home country, and policies that aim to stop migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. like this latest asylum ban rarely succeed at deterring migration. Instead, they greatly exacerbate the risk and prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) at the border harming the most vulnerable groups of people, including women, girls, and LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

It is a fact that migrants turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border are more vulnerable to GBV at the hands of cartels and other organized crime groups. In our recent study, service providers noted that between 30% and 90% of their clients have experienced GBV while at the border, and 68% indicated that their clients frequently report that they have been raped and/or sexually assaulted at the border. President Biden has stated that ending violence against women is the cause of his life and this administration has positioned itself as champions of that cause and yet immigrant survivors seeking asylum continue to be forgotten.  

President Biden and Congress must stop pointing fingers and work together to fix our broken immigration system instead of doubling down on harmful, failed policies that place migrants at increased danger. 

For media inquiries, please email Karla Flores at [email protected]. 

The Tahirih Justice Center is a national, nonprofit organization that serves immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. By amplifying the experiences of survivors in communities, courts, and Congress, Tahirih’s mission is to create a world in which all people share equal rights and live in safety and with dignity.