Oxfam joins ACLU and other partners to sue Trump administration over right to seek asylum

Oxfam America President and CEO Abby Maxman.

Since coming into office, President Trump has launched an unrelenting series of attacks on fundamental American values, from enacting a discriminatory Muslim Ban to slashing the refugee resettlement program to historic lows.

The administration continues to take every imaginable action to keep people out—irrespective of whether it is legal, humane, effective, or consistent with this country’s principles.

Many of you know that upholding the right to seek asylum has been a cornerstone of our work for many years. That is why we are proud to partner today with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of Law, and the Texas Civil Rights Project to challenge the Trump administration order suspending humanitarian protections at the US-Mexico border. The lawsuit is filed to halt the impending deportation of a 16-year-old boy to Honduras without the opportunity to apply for asylum, in violation of the protections afforded children under US law.

Together, we are challenging the administration’s illegal and immoral policy of turning away those seeking refuge from persecution. Ignoring the advice of hundreds of public health experts, the Trump administration’s policy uses COVID-19 as a pretext to pursue its well-established anti-immigrant, anti-refugee agenda. The order effectively suspends the right to seek asylum and has led to asylum seekers being forcibly returned to the very countries they are fleeing.

The indefinite extension of this order will endanger the lives and well-being of tens of thousands of people. We will not stand by while people are put in harm’s way to advance a hateful and xenophobic agenda.

Today, we say “enough.”

Over the past three years, we’ve watched the Trump administration wage an all-out assault against the US’ legacy as a safe haven for people fleeing persecution. Unfortunately, these attacks have not stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic—and have actually increased.

The US has the capacity to protect public health without violating its legal obligations to uphold the right to seek asylum.

This order flies in the face of decades of US support for refugee rights and the internationally recognized principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from returning people to countries where they have reason to fear persecution.

This is not the first time Oxfam has taken legal action against the Trump administration for its xenophobic agenda. In 2017, we joined the ACLU of Massachusetts and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s hateful Muslim Ban and submitted an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs’ challenge to a later version of the ban.

Over the past few years, we’ve also supported other legal challenges to policies that undermine migrants’ fundamental human dignity and violate international human rights and refugee law here in the US, in Mexico, and in Central America. We submitted an amicus brief to the Mexican Supreme Court arguing that asylum seekers are entitled to more than 30 days to file asylum claims, and formal comments to the US Department of Homeland Security challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to create “safe third country” agreements with Central American countries in order to block asylum seekers from entry. We also submitted a brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York outlining the life-threatening conditions that Haitian nationals living in the US would face should their Temporary Protected Status be revoked.

We’ve also continued our outspoken advocacy and campaign work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, elected officials across the US, and in other halls of power to advocate for the rights of the most vulnerable. We want to ensure the US lives up to its legacy as a safe haven for people fleeing violence and persecution.

The US has been enriched by immigrants and refugees over generations. We must not abandon the founding ideals on which our nation was built—and we will not sit on the sidelines while this administration tramples on more of those principles with each passing day.

Thank you for standing with us.

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