Biden’s new border rule adds more barriers for refugees
The “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule, the Biden administration’s new immigration order, is in many ways as draconian in rejecting asylum claims as the pandemic-era Title 42 that it replaces. The new rule stands to dangerously dismantle many of the protections our current laws afford. It is clear that the new measure contradicts our moral and human rights obligations and should be scrapped.
I am proud to serve as a member of the rabbinic human rights organization T’ruah, and as a rabbi in a Jewish social service agency where asylum seekers as young as 14 are able to find comprehensive support, including holistic trauma-informed counseling, safe housing, and access to education.
Under the new rule, people must first apply for asylum in bordering countries before asking for protection from the United States, even if they would not actually be safe. Why are we exposing those in need of refuge to even more opportunities for danger, severe illness or even death? Instead, our policies should prioritize the protection of human life above all else.
As Jews, we know all too well that asylum policy is truly a matter of life and death for many families. My grandfather is among a fortunate few who were able to come to the United States as refugees during World War II. Many more Jews found the U.S. borders closed to them and were sent home to certain death. This recent history, alongside our Torah’s resounding, repeated call to “love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers” (Leviticus 19:34), impels us to take a stand when we see history threaten to repeat itself.
The Biden administration must repeal this rule and implement solutions that align with our values and protect human life. That includes ending all asylum bans; instituting a fair and orderly process to seek asylum at the border; maintaining asylum access inside the United States; and making legal entry programs a true option for people who need them.
In our work with refugees in the greater Seattle area, new coats and shoes are among the most highly coveted items in our social service agency’s supply closet.
Almost no one makes the harrowing journey to the United States without damaging their shoes as they traverse terrain that challenges the body to its limits. Many of the shoes we collect are for the children who have crossed the border, some without parents, and have survived numerous children’s shelters along the way. Some coats we distribute are made to fit pregnant bodies. There is no “one-size fits all” uniform for refugees, just as there are an infinite number of worthy reasons why a vulnerable human being might need to cross several borders, by any means necessary, to find safety.
Our administration has a moral responsibility to recognize the diversity of harrowing paths refugees walk to assure basic safety and survival. We must create solutions, not cruel roadblocks for those whose lives are threatened by unjust immigration policy.
Rabbi Laura Rumpf is the director of Project Kavod/Dignity for Jewish Family Service and a member of T’ruah, a human rights organization.