PRESS RELEASE: Washington Immigrant Rights Leaders Denounce President Biden’s Executive Order Restricting Asylum


Press Contact: Magaly Smith,, 253-314-3897 

Washington Immigrant Rights Leaders Denounce President Biden’s Executive Order Restricting Asylum 

Seattle, WA – Yesterday, the Biden Administration issued executive actions to drastically restrict people’s right to seek asylum using section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In response, immigrant rights leaders from OneAmerica, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Offices of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and King County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, and directly impacted asylee seekers, held a press conference denouncing these actions and called on our Washington delegation to stand with immigrants and instead work to create a fair and orderly immigration system that welcomes people with dignity.   

Watch the recording of the live press conference here.   

The actions arbitrarily restrict the number of migrants who can enter the country, bar people from seeking asylum for periods of time, and increase the screening requirement for other forms of humanitarian protection. The executive actions closely mirror measures in the failed bipartisan border deal the Senate voted on just two weeks ago. Despite their promises, Washington Senators Murray and Cantwell both voted for the destructive and draconian “border security” bill. 

“Seeking asylum is a human right protected by our country and the international community. Many of us, including my own family, and the many migrants arriving in Washington state, are only here because of the fundamental right to seek safety and asylum,” said Roxana Norouzi, OneAmerica Executive Director. “This executive order erodes this basic right. Our immigrant base is clear: we expect the President, the Washington state congressional delegation, who represent a sanctuary state, to do better and think about what decisions like this communicate to immigrant voters. Our members are disappointed in the recent border vote in the senate. We call on Senators Murray and Cantwell to reject the dangerous dog whistles of opportunistic politicians who want to stoke fear and chaos, and instead uplift and reaffirm the legal right to seek asylum and safety and demonstrate that immigrants are a strength to our country. This is the promise of our nation that we must live up to.” 

“I have worked as an organizer on immigrants’ rights for decades, and we have seen time and time again that an enforcement-only approach simply does not work,” shared Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “And there’s one critically important aspect that is being overlooked here: Seeking asylum is legal under this country’s immigration laws and international treaty obligations. The only thing that will ‘fix’ the border is to modernize a desperately outdated immigration system that has reduced legal pathways and resources to process immigrants across all communities.” 

Using the same section of INA 212(f) that former President Trump used to introduce the Muslim Bans, Biden’s Executive Action restricts the entry of most migrants at the southern border and deports large numbers of migrants without processing their asylum claims during times of “high level encounters” at the southern border. These restrictions will be triggered when the seven-day average of daily border crossings exceeds 2,500, which has been the case almost every day in the last 12 months. The border would “reopen” only after the figure drops to 1,500 for seven days in a row and stays that way for two weeks. Those expelled while these restrictions are active would be subject to a 5-year bar from reentry to the US and possible criminal prosecution.   

Read more about our analysis of this policy on our website.  

“We cannot restrict, ban, detain, and deport our way out of this problem,” said Malou Chávez, Executive Director at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “President Biden’s proclamation announced yesterday is a direct violation of U.S. and international laws and a devastating step in the wrong direction, shifting away from our agreement to allow for asylum as a process. People will continue to seek safety at our borders. What we need are the resources necessary for the asylum process to work as intended. We must work together to create a fair and orderly immigration system that welcomes people with dignity.”

Asylee seeker Rosa Puche shared, “I am Columbian, an immigrant, and asylum seeker and OneAmerica leader. My family and I sought asylum in the U.S. due to security, political intimidation, violence and kidnapping. In this moment, we are all impacted by the action of President Biden. This is adding to the difficulties we face as immigrants. In addition to the already difficult asylum process, to have to deal with new changes that aren’t beneficial to us and do not defend our rights, is disappointing.”  

In the absence of federal intervention that welcomes and supports asylum seekers, our cities, counties and the state are having to step in with limited resources to welcome migrants seeking asylum and refuge here in Washington. Just this past legislative session, OneAmerica in coalition with others, won $25 million to support those seeking asylum in our state. However, it is not enough to support the thousands of asylee seekers in our state and those that will continue to arrive. The federal government must step up in this moment to make the immigration system stronger and inclusive.  

“I’m thankful to OneAmerica and the national community who is calling out the harm and horrors of this Biden Executive Order. I am thankful for the local community who is saying no to sweeps of unhoused immigrants, and yes to creative housing solutions. I am thankful to the King County colleagues, State and Local leaders who’ve advanced resources —but we know that much more is needed,” shared King County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. “What we don’t need are walls. What we don’t need are sweeps. What we don’t need is finger pointing or scapegoating. What we need is true policy solutions that serve asylum seekers: shelter, legal support, services. Immigrants make our community stronger and our economy more vibrant. We will not let our immigrant community be treated like a political football, or undo decades of immigration law. Not in this Washington or in Washington DC.”