New York, NY, September 19, 2022 — The IRC is deeply concerned by ongoing reports of the transportation of asylum-seekers by state and local governments to cities across the U.S., often without the informed consent of asylum-seekers or coordination and planning with local governments and nonprofit agencies.
In recent weeks, asylum-seekers have been transported by state and local governments to interior destinations, via both bus and plane. Based on the statements of political leaders, these destinations were chosen to maximize public attention.
These ill-guided decisions of state and local officials without coordination with destination cities and without any meaningful support to asylum seekers, far from serving the needs of people seeking safety in the United States, have instead caused asylum-seekers to be lost, confused, and disconnected from humanitarian services in the destinations they have been sent to.
IRC has seen first hand how well coordinated access to transportation is a needed element in a comprehensive humanitarian reception system for asylum seekers. Government-provided transportation could be a positive and practical component of a safe and orderly system, but transportation models must evolve to include key protections and effective collaboration.
In response to reports of politically motivated, disorderly, and unsafe transportation practices, the IRC released new policy recommendations related to transportation services to ensure a system that welcomes and protects the dignity of asylum-seekers.
The IRC calls on government at all levels to restore order and humanity with the following recommendations;
- Trauma-informed process which centers the informed consent of asylum-seekers: Transportation must be provided as an informed and voluntary choice through a trauma-informed process. Asylum seekers should not be taken to a bus or flight without the opportunity to meaningfully review their options with an aid worker in their best language. Transportation should not be offered to individuals who do not have sponsors in the intended destination location nor to individuals who are physically or emotionally unready or unable to travel.
- Essential humanitarian services prior to departure from the border: Asylum-seekers must have the opportunity to receive fresh food and water, receive medical screening, contact family members, and gather their personal belongings.
- Humane treatment on buses and planes: Buses and planes should be outfitted with basic necessities, including bathrooms, food, water, hygiene kits, and toys. Buses should also make regular stops to allow for rest and mobility.
- Communication between border governments and destination cities: Border states and cities initiating travel must ensure that relevant agencies in destination cities are regularly informed of departures.
- Welcoming infrastructure in destination cities: Individuals should be received in destination cities by an infrastructure that is designed to welcome with dignity. Asylum-seekers must have immediate access to humanitarian services, legal orientation, employment authorization, and referrals to case management programs.
Daniel Bloch, Technical Advisor for Asylum and Protection at the IRC, said:
Asylum-seekers are adults and children who fled violence and persecution abroad and now seek safety and freedom in the United States through a legal process. Disorderly transportation for asylum-seekers without key protections or coordination further endangers them . Their lives should not be subject to media stunts.
Ensuring a safe, orderly, and dignified coordinated humanitarian reception system for asylum-seekers is a reflection of American values. Transportation from the border to other U.S. cities can be a positive and practical part of this system, but it will require key measures to protect asylum-seekers and coordinate intentionally with destination cities. Asylum-seekers must be provided with information to make meaningful decisions about their journeys, and they must be allowed access to essential humanitarian services at the border, during transportation, and upon arrival. Border governments must communicate and collaborate with relevant agencies in destination cities to ensure a dignified response.
IRC and our partners in U.S. border and interior communities have shown time and time again that they are ready to welcome asylum-seekers. We call on government leaders at all levels to work with the nonprofit community and civil society to implement necessary changes and ensure a safe, orderly, and humane asylum system.