Administration Plans for Regional Processing Centers for Refugees and Migrants in the Western Hemisphere Raises Questions, Leads to Calls for Permanent Protections

April 27, 2023

Washington, D.C.—Church World Service today expressed cautious optimism over new plans by the Biden administration to significantly increase refugee resettlement from Latin America and the Caribbean and establish new Regional Processing Centers (RPCs), while denouncing the coupling of these plans with exclusionary anti-asylum policies like the asylum transit and entry ban and increased reliance on expedited removal at the border. One form of permanent protection should never be dismantled in the name of investing in another—both the U.S. resettlement and asylum programs are critical to upholding our moral and legal obligations to welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution.

The organization recognizes the planned expansion of family reunification pathways for individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia, as well as modernizing Cuban and Haitian family reunification processes—yet urges the administration to increase reliance on permanent protections. CWS emphasizes the need for robust resources to responsibly and efficiently welcome increasing arrivals and notes that questions remain as to how the this increase will be implemented and impact individuals and families around the world who have languished in the refugee resettlement pipeline—such as Afghans, Ukrainians, and Somalis—at a time of great displacement worldwide.  

The plans, announced today by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, come in advance of the nearing deadline for the end of the cruel Title 42 policy on May 11th and the introduction of an asylum ban allowing border officials to turn away asylum seekers requesting protection at the U.S. southern border. CWS calls on the administration to abandon any plans to implement such a ban and, instead, to robustly support the legal right to seek asylum. The administration clarified that the new RPCs would process not only refugees through the resettlement program, but also via other channels like humanitarian parole, family immigration, and labor pathways.

In response to these developments, Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at CWS, issued the following statement:

The United States can and should be scaling up access to permanent protections for the displaced across both the U.S. resettlement and asylum programs. We simply don’t accept pitting one region against another, nor asylum seekers against refugees. Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. Now is the time to expand our nation’s capacity to welcome, and we hope the administration keeps this in mind. 

With the immorally-delayed end of Title 42, we utterly abhor this administration’s plans to restore a harmful Trump-era asylum ban that forced thousands of asylum seekers back to the very danger they were fleeing—a rule that was, at its introduction, blocked by the courts. We, of course, believe that Title 42 should be eliminated, but to replace it with an asylum ban, expedited removal, and more deportations, as proposed by the administration, is a callous bait-and-switch that will cost lives and undermine the legal right to seek safety. The White House must reconsider.

CWS has repeatedly expressed frustration over the administration’s treatment of asylum seekers and its messages of exclusion or otherwise over-relying on temporary protection. The administration’s plans to invest in refugee processing in Latin America send a clear message that the United States recognizes the danger these families and individuals are fleeing—and that they deserve the chance to find a safe place to call home.

The organization further notes that overseas and domestic resettlement infrastructures need robust resources and support to significantly expand refugee processing from the Western Hemisphere while continuing to process and resettle refugees from around the world who have been waiting for years for reunification with loved ones and permanent protection.

For more information or to speak with Owen, contact