|USCCB News Release -
DATE: August 11, 2004
FROM: David Early, USCCB Dept. of Communications
IMMIGRATION POLICY VIOLATES RIGHTS, CREATES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
WASHINGTON - Expansion of a federal program which returns some recent
undocumented immigrants to their countries of origin without a hearing fails
to "protect the basic rights of victims of persecution" and creates a
conflict of interest for Border Patrol agents, the Chairman of the bishops'
Migration Committee said in a statement released today.
Coadjutor Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando said he was troubled by
yesterday's announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that
so-called "expedited removal" would be expanded to points along the U.S
border other than points of entry.
Expedited removal, enacted as part of immigration reforms in 1996,
allows law enforcement officials to remove summarily would-be
asylum-seekers, who arrive in the United States, without the opportunity of
presenting their claim for asylum to an immigration judge.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently opposed
expedited removal as a violation of human rights and the norms of
Bishop Wenski's statement follows:
"On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on
Migration, I am troubled by today's announcement by Department of Homeland
Security Border and Transportation Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson regarding
the expansion of the use of expedited removal into the interior of the
United States and along the United States border. The U.S. Catholic
bishops have consistently opposed the use of expedited removal as a
violation of the basic human rights of refugees and asylum-seekers and the
norms of international law.
"The expansion of the use of expedited removal, in our view, could lead to
the return of more bona fide asylum-seekers to their persecutors, resulting
in further harm to them and possibly their death. While the new policy
acknowledges the possibility of referring refugees or those fleeing
persecution to an immigration judge, we fear that Border Patrol agents, who
are trained to apprehend and detain undocumented migrants, are not experts
in asylum law and are not prepared to make life and death decisions in this
"In our view, the Administration's new policy will not protect the basic
rights of victims of persecution. Many such victims are fearful and
traumatized when they enter the United States and are unable to articulate
their fear of persecution upon apprehension. Others are unaware that they
have a right to ask for asylum. We are concerned that under this new
policy, an entrant who might have a valid claim of asylum will not have the
opportunity to express their fear and could feel intimidated by the presence
of Border Patrol agents. Victims of traffickers and smugglers, as well,
who often are traumatized, may be hesitant to express their fear and could
be returned to their captors under this new policy.
"The new policy represents a conflict of interest for Border Patrol agents.
They should not be given the task of an adjudicator, who is trained to
ascertain whether an entrant should receive the protection of U.S. asylum
law. The training of a law enforcement official and an enforcement agency
is to enforce the law, not interpret it.
"The new policy leaves many unanswered questions. It is unclear, for
example, whether the type of training Border Patrol agents receive will be
sufficient to ensure accuracy in their determinations; whether the
procedures they will be asked to follow will ensure some measure of due
process; whether safeguards will be implemented to govern the process; and
whether interpreters and counsel would be made available to apprehended
"We ask the Administration to reconsider this new policy. The use and
expansion of expedited removal within the United States further erodes the
cherished tradition of our nation as a place of safe haven for the world's
persecuted and undermines our nation's moral credibility throughout the
Sent on behalf of Mark Franken,
MRS/USCCB Executive Director
This message was sent from
Migration and Refugee Services
Office of Executive Director
3211 Fourth Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017
For more information, please contact
Cindy Phan at 202-541-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org