New York, NY, February 2, 2021 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) welcomes the news today that President Joe Biden has signed multiple Executive Orders (EO) outlining a vision for renewed humanitarian focus seeking to reverse Trump-era immigration policies which needlessly criminalized asylum-seekers, separated families and damaged the US’ long-standing role and bipartisan tradition of providing safe haven for the world’s most vulnerable. The IRC applauds the Biden administration’s measures, including:
- EO to develop a Strategy to Address Irregular Migration across the Southern Border and Create a Humane Asylum System: The IRC welcomes the Administration’s intention to roll back the most damaging immigration and asylum policies of the prior administration. The measures include a strategy to address the underlying drivers of migration from Central America - only exacerbated by COVID-19 and climate change - as well as shoring up local capacity via international cooperation to handle asylum-seekers and migrants. The EO also foresees ensuring legal avenues for these groups to the US, a review of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), and rescinding and reviewing Trump Administration measures that effectively closed the border to asylum-seekers. The IRC has a step-by-step roadmap for the new Administration to undo the damage wrought and restore humanity and efficiency at the US Southern border, including finding alternatives to detention and ensuring universal legal representation for asylum-seekers.
- EO to create a Task Force to Reunify Families: Numerous Travel Bans, MPP and other extreme border and detention policies, and “extreme vetting” are also among the policies which separated or kept families apart now under review by the Administration. The Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy in particular separated at least 5,000 children from their parents - including over 600 children whose parents still cannot be reached - in an utterly inhumane move that only perpetuated needless suffering and continued criminalizing asylum-seeking.
- EO to Restore Faith in the US Immigration System and Promote Integration of New Americans: The Biden Administration will elevate the government’s role in promoting immigrant integration and inclusion, including via a Task Force on New Americans. The order also examines the barriers, policies and regulations inherent in the current immigration system, and looks at streamlining the naturalization process. A review of the Public Charge Rule- which makes it harder for immigrants to stay in the country or reunite with their closest family members - is also required.
Hans van de Weerd, Vice President for Resettlement, Asylum and Integration of the International Rescue Committee, said: “With 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide and counting-- the largest number since the Second World War-- restoring a humane and competent asylum system is absolutely indispensable. The past four years of the Trump Administration were a lesson in how not to tackle this crisis humanely and competently, cruelly separating families and penalizing them for fleeing violence and persecution, and strong-arming countries in Central America already in the midst of humanitarian emergencies. The Biden-Harris Administration’s latest suite of executive orders are a moral necessity and a return to US traditions -- and a visible example of the values-based domestic and foreign policy to which the Administration has committed itself.
“We look forward to continued reform of an unsafe, unfair and broken asylum system which has caused incredible and unnecessary damage to thousands of lives and the US’ legacy. We equally look forward to an immediate increase in the number of refugees allowed into America this year, an increase to a minimum of 125,000 in FY22, alongside continued policies for diplomacy and development that tackle displacement crises at their source.”