Press Release

Contact: Michele Kayal
Phone: 703-919-8778

Statement: New refugee protection legislation advances child safety

Children of Immigrants

Bill offers “workable, affirmative vision,” advocate says

In response to today’s introduction of the Refugee Protection ActFirst Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley made the following statement:

“At a time when debate is swirling within Congress and the Biden Administration about our asylum system and its treatment of children, we applaud Representative Lofgren and Senator Leahy for reintroducing the Refugee Protection Act. While other lawmakers promote policies that would return children to harm and separate them from their families, the Refugee Protection Act offers a workable, affirmative vision that advances the safety, well-being and unity of children and families seeking haven in the United States. We urge Congress to use this bill as the starting point for transforming our refugee and asylum systems into ones that ask the question ‘Is this policy good for kids?’”

Children account for nearly half of all forcibly displaced people around the world, and children arriving by themselves or with family make up an increasing share of those arriving at the U.S. border seeking asylum. The Refugee Protection Act would restore and strengthen refugee and asylum protections under U.S. law and would expand critical protections for children who are refugees and asylum seekers, including:

  • Facilitating family reunification for child refugees and asylees in the United States
  • Eliminating visa caps for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which is provided by Congress for children who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment
  • Ensuring that all children receive due process for their asylum cases
  • Protecting all children who meet the definition of an “unaccompanied child” under the Trafficking Victims Protections Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and allowing them to remain with the trusted adult relatives with whom they arrive
  • Ensuring that protections for unaccompanied children remain with the child for the full duration of their immigration proceedings
  • Providing for child welfare professionals to ensure the safety and humane reception of children arriving at the border
  • Strengthening and expanding the Central American Minors Program

The Refugee Protection Act aligns with the views of the American people. A recent poll by the Welcome with Dignity Campaign and the U.S. Immigration Policy Center found that nearly three-quarters of Americans agree that the United States should provide asylum to people fleeing persecution or violence. This agreement transcends political affiliation, with the majority of Democrats (87%), Republicans (57%), and Independents (74%) supporting asylum. The majority of Americans also support an asylum system that is “fair, fast, and accurate,” respects due process, and keeps families together. An LA Times poll also found earlier this month that the majority of Americans think the United States should continue to offer asylum to people who arrive at the border.

Despite Americans’ strong support for children and for a fair, orderly, and humane asylum system, policymakers still favor continuing or reinstating policies that harm both. This week should have marked the court-ordered end to the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which has been used to expel children, families, and individuals at the border without the due process to make their case for asylum. However, several states and members of Congress are seeking to continue Title 42 despite clear evidence that the policy returns children to danger and leads to family separation, and the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the Administration from ending the policy. Reports also indicate that when Title 42 does finally end, the Biden Administration likely will reinstate a policy similar to the Trump Administration’s transit ban, which denied asylum seekers the ability to seek asylum at the U.S. border if they did not first seek asylum in another country they passed through on their way to the United States. A federal appeals court has ruled that this policy violates U.S. law.