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Migrant Justice Newsletter JUN 2024

The Refugee Convention of 1951 is a UN multilateral treaty that defines refugee and sets out responsibilities for nations to grant asylum for those seeking refuge within its borders. The Refugee Convention emerged after World War II when nations pledged never to repeat that era’s tragic turn-backs of people fleeing extermination. A 1967 Protocol to the Convention expanded the original protections intended for European refugees to refugees "without any geographic limitation." When the US ratified the Protocol in 1968, it undertook a majority of the obligations spelled out in the original 1951 document (Articles 2-34). To make US laws consistent with the 1951 Convention and the 1968 Protocol, the US Congress and Carter Administration passed the  US Refugee Act of 1980. The Act changed the definition of “refugee” to a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution” according to standards established by United Nations conventions and protocols. This new federal law was meant to protect people who are fleeing persecution on “account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The Refugee Act is meant to ensure that individuals who seek asylum from within the US or at its border are not sent back to places where they face persecution.

On June 4, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new plans to “secure our border.” It bars migrants from even asking for asylum when daily average apprehensions surpass a certain threshold—and that threshold has been defined well below the average daily numbers. This is a clear violation of international and domestic law. According to US law, a migrant can ask for asylum ANYWHERE within the territorial limits of the US. Forcing migrants to wait in Mexico (where they face many humanitarian hardships and dangers) and apply for an appointment via a cell phone app is an undue restriction on their legal right to ask for asylum.

Creating more deterrents like this one might knock down the numbers for a few weeks, but migration will likely surge in a month or so. Deterrence does not work. The US must instead address the reasons why people migrate and the current shortcomings and lack of resources in the US immigration system. The US could complement its armed CPB officers at the border with non-armed asylum screeners to conduct initial “credible fear” interviews. And the EOIR (the nation’s immigration court system) could expand its adjudication capacity and make itself a truly independent court system that is not beholden to the policy whims of the executive branch.

There is not a border crisis. There is a humanitarian crisis at the border. The US needs to stop addressing this as a “security” issue.  In Texas, the National Guard is shooting pepper balls at migrants. A couple  from Venezuela said they “placed a piece of cardboard between two shrubs on the Mexican side of the river to protect their 1-year-old daughter from stray shots.” A photographer stated that a Texas National Guardsman shot at him twice while filming from the Mexican side. Migrants in Ciudad Juárez told a media outlet that Texas personnel fire at them even “while they sleep,” displaying bruises and unruptured projectiles. They also reported “constant verbal aggressions and the use of laser beams to damage the eyes.”

This is an outrage. We are in need of major overhauls to border “security” policy. Please tell your federal legislators that you reject “get tough” policies at the border, that you reject the criminalization of migrants (that send thousands into unnecessary detention each month), and that you expect them to devise comprehensive immigration reform so that migrants have more options than to present themselves at the border and request asylum.

After reading the articles in this monthly newsletter, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to look at the Take Action items.

Read the full IRTF Migrant Justice Newsletter each month at