CWS Responds to State of the Union, Expresses Concern over Call to Renew Legislation that Would Shut Down Access to Asylum in the Face of Division

March 7, 2024

CWS Renews Call for a Permanent Ceasefire in Gaza


Washington, D.C.—Following tonight’s State of the Union address by President Biden, Church World Service expresses its concern over the framing of key immigration and humanitarian issues that impact hopeful new Americans. The organization readily acknowledges the need to address the economic and social worries the president raised in tonight’s address, but calls on the administration to elevate immigration with the American people so that they may better understand our history as a nation of welcome, and the secure, beneficial nature of a well-supported asylum program and resettlement system. 

Of major concern in tonight’s speech was the president’s intention to ask for emergency authority—via proposed legislation—to shut down the border to asylum seekers. It is an unprecedented and alarmist step that could undermine asylum processes under future administrations, and would not provide solutions nor protections to a population only seeking to build lives in safety as part of American communities.

“At a moment of intense division over the United States’ role as a nation of welcome, President Biden needs to embrace the role he was elected to, the role of a leader. Our nation’s history on immigration is the very core of America’s soul; the persecuted and displaced still see this country as a place of hope and inspiration, by downplaying this idea in the State of the Union, the president did not address the state of our Union,” said George Devendorf, Senior Director of External Affairs at Church World Service. “At a time of political upheaval and war, with climate-driven displacement becoming an increasing concern, asylum and resettlement have only grown in importance. Calling undocumented immigrants ‘illegals’ undermines that importance, as does summarily equating undocumented immigrants to violent acts. New Americans provide a cultural and economic boon to each community they join, to deny that fact is to rob ourselves of a vibrant future that betters the lives of all. The president must communicate this to Congress and the American people above and beyond what he did tonight.”

In addition to concerns of immigration, CWS notes that the administration’s commitment to construct a temporary pier to provide humanitarian supplies to Gaza, provides too little relief at too late of a point in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. CWS and its partners in the region continue the call for an immediate ceasefire and lasting peace as civilians suffer under the pains of violence.

CWS notes that recent discussions between Congress and the administration have raised counterproductive and immoral solutions to a perceived border crisis. Asylum seekers, and refugees, come to the United States and better our communities. They volunteer, start businesses, pay taxes, and enlist in our armed forces, all because they are invested in the hopes of this democracy. CWS calls on elected officials—on the federal, state, and local levels—to embrace our long history of welcome and all of the benefits it has brought.

For more information or to speak with Devendorf, contact