(April 16, 2020) – In a letter sent to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf today, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, together with ASISTA, the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Tahirih Justice Center, and over 180 immigrant rights and domestic violence advocacy organizations, called on the Trump Administration to immediately rescind its policy of turning back asylum seekers at the border. To date, this policy has resulted in the expulsions of nearly 10,000 asylum seekers, with no legal process whatsoever. The groups’ letter points out that this practice places survivors of domestic and sexual violence at particularly high risk of harm.

“The current COVID-19 crisis only compounds the barriers that survivors of gender-based violence face seeking asylum in the United States,” the groups write, noting that shelter at home orders have led to a worldwide surge in domestic violence in recent weeks. “Within the last few years, the U.S. Department of Justice has all but closed the door on women seeking asylum from their abusive partners … The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have now cited the pandemic as justification to close our borders to asylum seekers entirely.”

“If we do not implement reasonable precautions at our border to ensure both public health and the protection of refugees, and instead continue to shut the door to the most vulnerable, we will fail those who turn to us for protection, as well as U.S. domestic and international law obligations, and our own best traditions,” the groups continue. “We urge [DHS] to rescind this flawed policy and replace it with targeted, reasonable, and proportionate measures to protect public health and ensure that women and children fleeing domestic violence and other refugees are not returned to persecution.”

The full letter can be read in both English and Spanish.

Individuals can sign CGRS’s petition to Acting Secretary Wolf here.