The Biden/Harris Administration will take a new approach to asylum seekers.
The next president will need to take urgent action to end the Trump Administration’s draconian policies, grounded in fear and racism rather than fact, work to heal the wounds inflicted on immigrant communities, and restore America’s moral leadership. As president, Biden will move immediately to ensure that the U.S. meets its responsibilities as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
In the first 100 days, the Biden Administration has promised to:
- Immediately reverse the Trump Administration’s cruel and senseless policies that separate parents from their children at our border, including ending the prosecution of parents for minor immigration violations as an intimidation tactic, and prioritize the reunification of any children still separated from their families.
- End Trump’s detrimental asylum policies. The Statue of Liberty has long been a beacon to people “yearning to breathe free” around the world — including asylum-seekers and refugees. But the Trump Administration has worked against this tradition to drastically restrict access to asylum in the U.S., including imposing additional restrictions on anyone traveling through Mexico or Guatemala; attempting to prevent victims of gang and domestic violence from receiving asylum; systematically prosecuting adult asylum seekers for misdemeanor illegal entry; and severely limiting the ability of members of the LGBTQ community, an especially vulnerable group in many parts of the world, from qualifying for asylum as members of a “particular social group.” Biden will end these policies, starting with Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, and restore our asylum laws so that they do what they should be designed to do–protect people fleeing persecution and who cannot return home safely.
- End the mismanagement of the asylum system, which fuels violence and chaos at the border. Trump’s disastrous policy of “metering” — limiting the number of asylum applications accepted each day — forces people seeking asylum to wait on the streets in often dangerous Mexican border towns for weeks before they are permitted to apply. It has created a horrifying ecosystem of violence and exploitation, with cartels kidnapping, violently assaulting, and extorting migrants. Biden will direct the necessary resources to ensure asylum applications are processed fairly and efficiently, while treating families and children with compassion and sensitivity.
- Surge humanitarian resources to the border and foster public-private initiatives. Humanitarian needs are best met through a network of organizations, such as faith-based shelters, non-governmental aid organizations, legal non-profits, and refugee assistance agencies working together. Biden will dramatically increase U.S. government resources to support migrants awaiting assessment of their asylum claims and to the organizations providing for their needs.
- End prolonged detention and reinvest in a case management program. The Trump Administration has sought to circumvent the Flores agreement and hold children in detention indefinitely. But proven alternatives to detention and non-profit case management programs, which support migrants as they navigate their legal obligations, are the best way to ensure that they attend all required immigration appointments. These programs also enable migrants to live in dignity and safety while awaiting their court hearings–facilitating things like doctor visits, social services, and school enrollment for children. Evidence shows that these programs are highly effective and are far less expensive and punitive than detaining families. Biden will codify protections to safeguard children to make sure their treatment is consistent with their best interest and invest in community-based case management programs, including those supported by faith-based organizations such as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, to move migrants into safe environments as quickly as possible.
- Reverse Trump’s public charge rule, which runs counter to our values as Americans and the history of our nation. Allowing immigration officials to make an individual’s ability to receive a visa or gain permanent residency contingent on their use of government services such as SNAP benefits or Medicaid, their household income, and other discriminatory criteria undermines America’s character as land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all, not just the wealthy.
- End the so-called National Emergency that siphons federal dollars from the Department of Defense to build a wall. Building a wall will do little to deter criminals and cartels seeking to exploit our borders. Instead of stealing resources from schools for military children and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Biden will direct federal resources to smart border enforcement efforts, like investments in improving screening infrastructure at our ports of entry, that will actually keep America safer.
- Rescind the un-American travel and refugee bans, also referred to as “Muslim bans.” The Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim bias hurts our economy, betrays our values, and can serve as a powerful terrorist recruiting tool. Prohibiting Muslims from entering the country is morally wrong, and there is no intelligence or evidence that suggests it makes our nation more secure. It is yet another abuse of power by the Trump Administration designed to target primarily black and brown immigrants. Biden will immediately rescind the “Muslim bans.”
- Order an immediate review of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries ripped apart by violence or disaster. The Trump Administration’s politically-motivated decisions to rescind protected status for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing countries impacted by war and natural disasters — without regard for current country conditions — is a recipe for disaster. Biden will protect TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders from being returned to countries that are unsafe. TPS/DED holders who have been in the country for an extended period of time and built lives in the U.S. will also be offered a path to citizenship through legislative immigration reform.
- Restore sensible enforcement priorities. Targeting people who have never been convicted of a serious criminal offense and who have lived, worked, and contributed to our economy and our communities for decades is the definition of counterproductive. Biden will direct enforcement efforts toward threats to public safety and national security, while ensuring that individuals are treated with the due process to which they are entitled and their human rights are protected. President Biden will end workplace raids to ensure that threats based on workers’ status do not interfere with their ability to organize and improve their wages and working conditions. He will also protect sensitive locations from immigration enforcement actions. No one should be afraid to seek medical attention, go to school, their job, or their place of worship for fear of an immigration enforcement action.
- Ensure that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel abide by professional standards and are held accountable for inhumane treatment. Biden will increase resources for training and demand transparency in and independent oversight over ICE and CBP’s activities. Under a Biden Administration, there will be responsible, Senate-confirmed professionals leading these agencies, and they will answer directly to the president.
- Restore and defend the naturalization process for green card holders. A Biden Administration will streamline and improve the naturalization process to make it more accessible to qualified green card holders. The Trump Administration has made it far too difficult for qualifying green card holders to obtain citizenship. Quite simply, this is wrong. Biden will restore faith in the citizenship process by removing roadblocks to naturalization and obtaining the right to vote, addressing the application backlog by prioritizing the adjudication workstream and ensuring applications are processed quickly, and rejecting the imposition of unreasonable fees.
- Revitalize the Task Force on New Americans and boost our economy by prioritizing integration, promoting immigrant entrepreneurship, increasing access to language instruction, and promoting civil engagement. Integrating the talents of new immigrants into our communities and helping them to thrive enriches our nation and our economy. Under President Biden, the Task Force on New Americans will once more coordinate federal agencies and resources to provide community support across a range of issues, including language learning, entrepreneurship and financial management, workforce training, and guidance on the naturalization process.
- Convene a regional meeting of leaders, including from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Canada, to address the factors driving migration and to propose a regional resettlement solution. Migration out of the Northern Triangle has impacted more countries than just the U.S. Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, and others have also seen growing numbers fleeing violence and a lack of opportunity. A regional problem requires a regional solution, so Biden will immediately convene regional partners to institute a comprehensive, multi-national plan to address the challenges.
*Photo Credit: Getty Images