Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement on last week’s ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. that the Trump Administration’s attempt to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to suspend asylum rights violated the law:
“The Court found exactly what the Foreign Affairs Committee’s investigation revealed about this policy months ago: it was illegal. Judge Sullivan’s ruling marks the third time that the courts have rejected this baseless and dangerous argument. I urge the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the General Counsel to publicly disavow and withdraw the deeply flawed legal opinions that led to this policy. These rationales ignore our laws and betray our values. They have no place in American jurisprudence and, like the ‘torture memos’ of the Bush years, must be formally and unequivocally rejected.”
The court’s ruling requires the Trump Administration to immediately cease using the pandemic that the President himself has exacerbated as an excuse for denying fundamental rights to people fleeing persecution.
As Chairman Engel wrote in a May 12 statement along with Chairman Thompson, Chairman Nadler, and Ranking Member Menendez, this policy, which has no basis in legitimate public health concerns, is a “clear violation of its obligations under domestic and international law to protect individuals fleeing persecution or torture.”
The justification that the State Department finally provided to Congress after two months of pressure from Congress was so weak that Yale Professor Oona Hathaway, a member of State’s own Advisory Committee on International Law, wrote at the time: “The administration’s explanation suggests that it is not only ignoring its international law obligations in this case, but it also, apparently, misunderstands international law altogether.”
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