Within hours of taking office on January 20, President Biden signed executive orders that will begin to restore America’s tradition of welcoming those who are seeking refuge and reestablish U.S. humanitarian leadership abroad.
President Biden signed executive orders repealing the Trump administration’s discriminatory travel bans and affirming Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections. He also signed EOs committing the United States to rejoin the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization (WHO), including the WHO’s global effort to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to populations in need around the world.
The administration also sent Congress sweeping legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of people, keep families together, rebuild and expand the U.S. refugee resettlement program, increase protections for humanitarian visa applicants, and promote immigrant integration and protection from labor exploitation.
Refugees International President Eric Schwartz commended the administration for these necessary actions:
On day one, President Biden communicated to the American people and the world the intention of his administration to reverse years of damage that undermined the rights and well-being of asylum seekers, refugees, and others who have been forced to flee their homes. He also committed his administration to policies of compassion toward those escaping persecution, human rights violations, and violence—policies that would reflect the values and the practices of state and local leaders and citizens around the country who have always welcomed refugees and asylum seekers into their communities.
These first steps are significant, and Refugees International will continue to work with and encourage the new administration and Congress to move this agenda of compassion forward in these and other key areas:
- Remain in Mexico: The Biden administration’s new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also announced it would stop placing new asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program. We hope this is the first step toward ensuring that the thousands already in the program will be paroled to pursue their claims in safety in the United States.
- Asylum: In explaining a moratorium on deportations, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) emphasized the need to commit resources to asylum processing at the southwest border. As it moves forward on this issue, we encourage the administration to roll back the Trump administration’s restrictions on asylum access and eligibility.
- Pathways for Migration from Central America: Refugees International commends the Biden administration’s legislative proposal for recognizing the need to address root causes of migration, to revive the Central American Minors program, for case management alternatives to detention programs, and for legal representation for unaccompanied children. Refugees International encourages the administration to promote substantially increased refugee resettlement for Central Americans through the U.S. Refugee Admissions program. We also support taking up the Refugee Protection Act, which would further update and improve our asylum system.
For more priorities for the new administration and Congress, see Refugees International’s portfolio of briefs outlining critical policy advice for the new administration here: https://www.refugeesinternational.org/critical-advice-for-biden