New York, 20 May 2020 –   The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the U.S. Administration’s announcement today that they have extended the border closures indefinitely, under the pretext of mitigating the novel coronavirus, deeming seeking asylum “nonessential travel.”

Olga Byrne, the Director of U.S. Immigration for the International Rescue Committee, said: 

Fleeing for one’s life is the very definition of essential travel, and closing borders indefinitely will only force people into the very conditions that heighten the spread of COVID-19. Families fleeing from violence and disaster will increasingly be returned to detention centers and migrant shelters where unsanitary and overcrowded conditions subject vulnerable populations to COVID-19 risk on both sides of the border. 

Suspending legal protections for the most vulnerable in a time of crisis will not make America safer, and sending people to confined areas where the virus can infect a greater number of people is not a medically-sound public health response. We call on the administration to restore the rule of law and allow entry into the US for humanitarian reasons and deliver aid that will help our neighbors in Northern Central America save thousands of lives. We must address the root causes of displacement and marshall our resources toward stopping the spread of COVID-19. America cannot use the global pandemic to advance policies that deny people safety and put more people at risk.

The IRC has worked with local partners to set up a hotel for asylum seekers in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to quarantine for 14 days before moving into shelters. This “Triage Hotel” provides COVID-19 testing, triage, virtual case management, and helps limit COVID-19 from entering shelters on the border, which can be poorly ventilated and include communal eating and sleeping. Passing through these services, families are identified as being cleared of COVID-19, which demonstrates that it is possible to both protect public health and provide safety to families fleeing violence and persecution. 

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.