To Whom It May Concern:
As faith leaders in Davis, CA, we strongly oppose the changes in regulations on seeking asylum in the United States being proposed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review of the Department of Justice. These proposals would effectively end our asylum system, block protection for people and families fleeing from persecution, and reverse decades of U.S. and International Law. The changes would restrict the number of those admitted to the US, apparently on the unfair basis of wealth and status. Thus, those with the means to fly into the US would not be affected if their flight was non-stop or only had one stop in another country. However, those who have passed by land through two countries would automatically be barred.
The new proposed rule is long and complicated; however, a few of its new restrictions are particularly disturbing. It would eliminate gender-based claims for asylum. Women and LGBTQ asylum seekers would be disproportionately affected by this change. Not only would women be unable to seek asylum based on their experiences of extreme domestic violence, but even women fleeing sex slavery at the hands of terrorist groups could be denied.
By redefining the meaning of being "persecuted," those who come to America to escape from violent gangs and terrorist groups would not be considered asylum worthy. The Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain among the most violent countries not at war in the world. (See, e.g., Jan. 2020 article by the Council of Foreign Affairs about the effect of violence on those fleeing Central America (https://www.cfr.org/blog/top-conflicts-watch-2020-worsening-conditions-northern-triangle?utm_medium=social_share&utm_source=emailfwd) This new proposed rule would prohibit even the most vulnerable groups of children and women fleeing extreme and daily violence in their communities from seeking asylum in the United States.
Because this new proposed rule drastically restricting asylum claims violates long standing bases for asylum under both United States law and International Law, we urge our fellow citizens to submit to the Federal Register a public comment in opposition to the adoption of this as a final rule. Comments must be submitted no later than July 15, 2020. Information about that process can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2020-12575. Additional information, including a possible template for such comment, can be found at https://immigrationjustice.us/advocacy/advocacy-issues/due-process-in-court/speak-out-against-proposed-rule-that-would-gut-u-s-asylum-system/#/82.
George Washington acknowledged the centrality of asylum to the idea of America when he wrote to Mr. Francis Adrean Van Der Kemp in a letter dated May 28, 1788, "I had always hoped that this land might become a safe & agreement Asylum to the virtuous & persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong...." (National Archives, founders.archives.gov).
Sara Tillema, Director and Campus Minister at Cal Aggie Christian Association (CA House)
Helen Roland – Celebration of Abraham
Rabbi Greg Wolfe – Congregation Bet Haverim
Rev. Eunbee Ham, ThD.
Associate Pastor of Spirituality and Engagement, Davis Community Church
Rev. Dr. Chris Neufeld-Erdman, Pastor, Davis Community Church
Rev. Dr. Brandon Austin - Davis United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Pamela Dolan, Rector, The Episcopal Church of St. Martin
Dr. Hamza Nakhal and Dr. Anne Kjemtrup - representing Muslim DEIN
Rev. Beth Banks, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis