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After weeks of back-room dealings by a group of senators, the Senate on February 4, 2024, released the text for an emergency supplemental appropriations bill requested by President Biden that would significantly restrict or remove decades-long asylum protections and allow holding up to 50,000 people in immigration detention as the price of military and other funding for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific. The bill may be voted on the Senate floor as soon as February 7.

While the Border Act section of the bill contains some good provisions, such as giving the government discretion to provide counsel for unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings, it bargains with the lives of people seeking safety by gutting many asylum protections. For instance, it would authorize “summary removals” of asylum seekers without access to judicial review when certain numbers of people cross the border irregularly, automatically returning them to danger.

In response, Vicki B. Gaubeca, Associate Director of US Immigration and Border Policy at Human Rights Watch, said:

“President Biden, and Congress, can and should do better than this. The Biden administration should stop following punitive models involving locking people up and summarily expelling them, which have proven to be both ineffective and harmful. Instead, the administration should scrap a deterrence-only approach and invest in good border governance by creating and expanding safe pathways to migrate, along with humane processes at ports of entry that respect the rights and dignity of everyone arriving at US borders.”

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