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IRC: President-Elect Joe Biden has an opportunity to alleviate suffering at the U.S. Southern border in first days of presidency

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As President-elect Biden begins to strike up plans for government transition for his first days in office, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has drafted a new report drawing a set of concrete recommendations for the new Administration to tackle the triple challenge of unwinding inhumane policies like the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program, responding to the current humanitarian crisis, and addressing an increase in arrivals at the border—all during a pandemic.

Olga Byrne, the IRC’s Director of U.S. Immigration, said: “Over the last four years, the Trump administration’s increasingly restrictive immigration policies have drastically limited access to U.S. humanitarian protection pathways, blocked access to territory for asylum seekers, and deployed inhumane treatment as a mode of deterrence. The new administration must be prepared to take bold action to commit much-needed reform in his first 100 days to address the crisis at and below the U.S. Southern border.

“What is needed here is humane and competent policy. A humane approach is essential to ensure the dignity and safety of vulnerable populations at America’s doorstep, as well as in resuming the mantle of global humanitarian leadership and all humanitarian commitments. At the same time this must be done competently in an effort to restore the U.S.’ legacy as a place of refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution, and of course long-term immigration and humanitarian agendas.

“This is a matter of political will and policy. If the Biden administration gets it right, the U.S. can credibly urge the international community to step up and share responsibility worldwide. If not, the consequences will be measured in lives lost and in regional and political instability.”

The incoming Biden administration must be prepared to take bold action to bring relief to the crisis at and below the U.S. Southern border in the first 100 days. The IRC has a concrete step-by-step road map for the new Administration to undo the damage wrought and restore U.S. humanitarian leadership, which includes measures such as:  

  1. Surging humanitarian assistance to the U.S. - Mexico Border to meet the existing crisis and projected increase in need, including by ramping up COVID-19 prevention protocols at ports of entry. 
  2. Create and implement a credible, humane, and efficient asylum process by restoring protections to asylum seekers through executive action, adopting policies that keep families together while ensuring all minors are processed in accordance with U.S. child protection laws, and increasing funds to provide support services for those awaiting adjudication.
  3. Expand processing from the region, protect migrants in transit, and address root causes by addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Mexico; combatting drivers of displacement in Central America; and by increasing pathways to safety as well as significantly increasing refugee resettlement numbers—at an all-time low with the Trump Administration’s recent cap of merely 15,000

For the IRC’s road map, which includes a full set of recommendations to the Biden Administration on responding to the humanitarian crisis in Central America and restoring the U.S. asylum system, click here.

The IRC has been providing a broad range of immigration services in the U.S. since 1958, and continues today in 24 offices across the U.S. In 2018, the IRC ramped up emergency humanitarian assistance along the Southern border of the U.S., providing warm meals, clothing, transitional shelter, travel coordination and crucial legal orientation. We continue to work alongside partners in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Texas, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere to respond to asylum seekers’ urgent needs through case management, psychosocial support, economic empowerment programming, and legal representation. The IRC is working in close collaboration with partners to improve access to legal counsel through both full legal representation in merits hearings as well as through pro se workshops and legal orientations that help people navigate an exceedingly complex system.

The IRC has been working on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border since 2018. In Mexico, the IRC is responding in 17 shelters along the border, providing hygiene kits and psychosocial support, as well as a specific shelter for refugees that facilitates a 14-day quarantine before being moved to larger government shelters. The IRC has recently launched a new instance of its Global ‘Signpost’ program for asylum seekers in Mexico, called InfoDigna. A collaboration between the International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps and developed with the support of technology companies Google, Cisco, Trip Advisor, Twilio, Box, Facebook and Zendesk, Signpost consists of four components: bespoke information products hosted online on various platforms, connectivity via Wi-Fi hotspots to enable access to digital information, two-way communication facilitated by moderators via community-building social media channels, and regularly updated maps to locate health and other services. Since 2015, Signpost has served approximately two million individuals in seven languages through a website, Facebook, Whatsapp, blog, and an app across eight countries.

About the IRC

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 www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.