The “Legal Pathway Circumvention” rule, the Biden administration’s new immigration order, is in many ways as draconian in denying asylum claims as the pandemic-era Title 42 it replaces. The new rule is meant to dangerously dismantle many of the protections our current laws provide. It is clear that the new measure contradicts our moral and human rights obligations and should be scrapped.
I am proud to serve as a member of the rabbinical human rights organization T’ruah, and as a rabbi at a Jewish social services agency where asylum seekers as young as 14 can find comprehensive support, including trauma-informed holistic counseling. , housing security and access to education.
Under the new rule, people must first apply for asylum in neighboring countries before applying for protection from the United States, even if they would not actually be safe. Why are we exposing those who need shelter to further opportunities for danger, serious illness, or even death? Instead, our policies should prioritize the protection of human life above all else.
As Jews, we know very well that asylum policy is truly a matter of life and death for many families. My grandfather is one of the lucky few who was able to come to the United States as refugees during World War II. Many more Jews found the borders of the United States closed and were sent home to certain death. This recent history, coupled with our Torah’s resounding and repeated call to “love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners” (Leviticus 19:34), prompts us to take a stand when we see history threatening to repeat itself.
The Biden administration must repeal this rule and implement solutions that align with our values and protect human life. That includes ending all asylum bars; institute a fair and orderly process for seeking asylum at the border; maintain access to asylum within the United States; and make legal entry programs a real option for people who need them.
In our work with refugees in the greater Seattle area, new coats and shoes are among the most coveted items in our social service agency’s supply closet.
Hardly anyone makes the harrowing journey to the United States without damaging their shoes as they traverse terrain that challenges the body to its limits. Many of the shoes we collect are for children who have crossed the border, some without parents, surviving numerous children’s shelters along the way. Some coats we distribute are made to fit pregnant bodies. There is no “one size fits all” uniform for refugees, just as there are an infinite number of worthwhile reasons why a vulnerable human being might need to cross multiple borders, by any means necessary, to find safety.
Our administration has a moral responsibility to recognize the many harrowing paths refugees travel to ensure basic safety and survival. We must create solutions, not cruel obstacles, for those whose lives are threatened by unfair immigration policy.
Rabbi Laura Rumpf is the director of Project Kavod/Dignity for Jewish Family Service and a member of T’ruah, a human rights organization.