FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 18, 2022
Biden’s Broken Promises: A Year of Safety Denied
President Biden has continued and expanded the worst of Trump’s asylum policies
Washington – President Biden promised to restore humanity to the way we welcome people seeking safety in our country. One year after his inauguration, he has broken that promise. His administration continues to prioritize political over humanitarian concerns at the expense of refugees, asylees, and other people seeking refuge on our doorstep.
In his first year, President Biden sent 5,867 expulsion flights full of people–many of whom never had the chance to seek asylum back to danger. Of those, 180 flights were full of Haitian families back to an impoverished country suffering from extreme political unrest and almost no public health infrastructure during a pandemic.
In his first year, President Biden not only continued but expanded “Remain in Mexico”: an illegal policy devised by nativists like Stephen Miller to make good on President Trump’s dream of putting out Lady Liberty’s torch once and for all.
After a year in office, President Biden has embraced the misuse of Title 42, despite the well-documented and disproportionate impact on Indigenous, Black, and LGBTQI refugees. His administration continues to ignore repeated calls from preeminent public health experts who said our nation can take proven public health precautions and safely welcome people seeking asylum at the same time.
And recently, the Department of Justice has walked away from settlement negotiations with families separated by Trump’s policies at the border.
In response, members of the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign representing a wide array of directly-impacted people seeking asylum and the experts and volunteers who support them issued the following response marking the occasion:
“It’s been one year since President Biden took the oath of office promising to restore the soul of America. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has kept and expanded anti-asylum policies, like Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico’ that are rooted in racism and xenophobia and erode the soul of America,” said Melina Roche, Campaign Manager of the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign. “To truly live up to his promise, President Biden must ensure families, children, women, and men seeking safety are given a fair opportunity to seek refuge in a humane, dignified and fair manner.”
“A year into President Biden’s term, people seeking safety are still suffering under harmful policies of the Trump administration that Biden had pledged to end,” said Karen Tumlin, founder and director of Justice Action Center. “This is not merely a political failure — it is a humanitarian one. We remain committed to pushing the Biden Administration to do the right thing and follow through on his multiple pledges to create a more fair, humane, and orderly immigration system. Human lives hang in the balance.”
“One year into the Biden administration, the real crisis facing the immigration system is one of political leadership and will,” said Nisha Agarwal, Deputy Executive Director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “President Biden has repeatedly stated his commitment to welcoming immigrants and refugees, but has yet to make significant progress dismantling the anti-immigrant policies of the previous administration. From record-low refugee admissions to the administration’s continued defense of inhumane policies like Title 42, broken promises abound. For his second year in office, President Biden must ensure that his actions follow through on his promises. Lives depend on it.”
Anna Gallagher, Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc, or CLINIC, said: “President Biden built his campaign and the foundation of his administration on a promise to restore the soul of America. Yet, as we enter into year two, deadly policies at the U.S.-Mexico border including Remain in Mexico and Title 42, which disregard human life, remain in place and deeply damage the soul of America. How those in power treat those fleeing for their lives says everything about a country. We continue to call on the administration to do what is just and what is right and end the politicization of human life. As an organization rooted in Catholic values, we call on the administration to use its authority to protect asylum seekers and reaffirm our laws and the right to seek life-saving protection in our country.”
Carolina Martin Ramos, Co-Executive Director of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim (CMPI), said: “During his presidential campaign, President Biden led us to believe that he was truly shocked and offended by the Trump administration’s complete disregard for human rights and civil rights. Yet, only one year later and the Biden administration is fighting to keep Trump’s unconscionable and illegal immigration policies alive. The Biden administration is fighting to keep the MPP or “Remain in Mexico” program and Title 42 policies in place in violation of the rights of asylum seekers under federal and international laws. If that was not bad enough, the Biden administration has pulled back on promises to address the harms caused by the cruel family separations orchestrated by Stephen Miller and President Trump for political gain. We cannot allow any politicians to use the most vulnerable; children and refugees fleeing persecution and torture to be used as political fodder. True leaders stand up for our most vulnerable and don’t use them to gain political capital. Most of the families separated and many asylum seekers arriving today are Maya and Indigenous peoples fleeing persecution, torture, and forced displacement for protecting land, water, and their human rights. We need President Biden to stand up and distinguish his administration from the Trump administration instead of fighting to keep these unconscionable policies in place.”
“One year into his presidency, President Biden has broken his campaign promise to reassert the United States’ commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees by doubling down on policies that abandon, detain, and deport those in need of protection,” said Amy Fischer, Americas Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA. “In addition to expelling thousands of asylum-seekers and expanding immigration detention during the pandemic, the Biden administration has abandoned Afghans at most need of resettlement and perpetuated anti-Black immigration policies through the violence at the border and mass expulsions of Haitians. As President Biden approaches year two of his presidency, he must recommit to his abandoned campaign promise and rebuild the United States’ credibility as a bastion of humanitarian protection.”
“A year ago, President Biden took office promising to bring change, but for people seeking asylum hardly anything has changed at all,” said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead for Oxfam America. “President Biden committed to rebuilding our immigration system into one that centered the dignity and humanity of those fleeing for safety. Instead, his administration has doubled down on some of the most harmful xenophobic policies of the Trump administration. We will not stop advocating for immigrants until we revamp our immigration infrastructure and end shameful policies like Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico’ once and for all. To say that President Biden’s first year in office has been a disappointment is an understatement.”
“The Biden administration promised to end the cruel policies that defined his predecessor’s legacy,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Yet one year into this administration, the reality is that access to asylum at the border, especially at ports of entry, is still extremely limited, and many individuals continue to be summarily expelled from the border with no opportunity to seek protection. It is a misguided political choice to continue to implement or even expand anti-asylum policies rooted in xenophobia and racism such as the use of Title 42 or the Remain in Mexico program, policies that tear apart families and forces those fleeing for their lives back into danger. The Women’s Refugee Commission stands ready as ever to support the meaningful restart of asylum in the United States by creating a welcoming asylum system grounded in fairness. In 2022, the Biden administration must finally turn the page and welcome with dignity.”
“We felt relief and optimism when President Biden took office one year ago,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “Upon assuming office, Biden promised to end Trump’s disastrous asylum policies and treat people seeking safety with humanity. Instead his administration has embraced some of Trump’s most unconscionable positions and practices, escalating Title 42 expulsions of people seeking asylum and expanding the dangerous Remain in Mexico policy. One year in, the U.S. border remains fundamentally closed to families, children, and adults escaping persecution. That is a political choice and a moral failure. As President Biden enters his second year in office, we urge him to immediately reverse course and reinstate a safe and fair asylum process at the southern border.”
“The Biden administration came into office with the mandate to restore humanity at the border and reverse the cruel policies of his predecessors. One year later, that mandate has been unfulfilled,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council. “The administration continues to promise that asylum will eventually be restored, but has refused over the last year to recognize that asylum seekers have a legal right to seek protection, and blocked accountability and compensation for the harms done to thousands of families separated at the border. As President Biden’s second year begins, we call on the President to abandon the misguided policies of his predecessor like Title 42, and follow through on his commitment to providing access to a safe, humane, and dignified asylum system. Rather than using resources to expel asylum seekers as a form of deterrence, the Biden administration could instead surge resources to ports of entry to process asylum seekers in safety.”
“One year into his administration, President Biden’s promise to uphold asylum law remains alarmingly unfulfilled and his administration’s continued use of inhumane Trump-era policies to turn away people seeking refuge is inflicting massive human rights abuses and staining the president’s record,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “The president should direct his administration to end this travesty and restore asylum before these policies cause even more suffering, disorder at the border and damage to his administration’s credibility.”
“As we approach the first anniversary of the Biden-Harris administration, I am in sheer disappointment at the level of cruelty and dismissal of human lives that we have seen,’ said Guerline Jozef, cofounder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “To place this sentiment in context, it’s important that since to date, this administration has sent 181 to Haiti. This is estimated to be over 18,000 asylum seekers, including pregnant women and babies. Out of these 181 flights, 144 have taken place since September 19. This is the same country that the administration has stated is unsafe on multiple occasions – most recently by a warning notice issued by the Department of State. Further, the decision by the Biden-Harris administration to uphold policies, like Title 42, which was implemented by white nationalists, again proves that they are not keeping their promise to build better. Today, one year into the administration, we are calling for the Biden-Harris administration to truly welcome with dignity. The world witnessed Del Rio!”
“We are profoundly disappointed that the Biden administration continues to refuse to process asylum claims using the debunked theory that doing so would present a public health risk, regardless of whether the individuals are vaccinated, test negative for COVID-19, and/or quarantine, all while the administration simultaneously allows business travelers and tourists to enter the country,” said Sara Ramey, Executive Director of the Migrant Center for Human Rights. “The United States has a legal and moral obligation to consider the cases of people seeking safety in our country.”
“The Biden administration inherited a cruel and chaotic set of immigration and border policies from the Trump regime. Instead of the sweeping reforms and sharp contrasts that they promised to deliver, the Biden team has been scared by the political attacks of a rabid right-wing media world and xenophobic Republicans who are intent on attacking Democrats on immigration regardless of the facts or their actual policies,” said Vanessa Cardenas, Deputy Director of America’s Voice. “The best way forward on policy is their best way forward politically: deliver on promises and establish a workable legal system for asylum seekers, refugees and workers.”
“Unfortunately a year into President Biden’s term, we are seeing the continuation of cruel and unlawful anti-asylum policies at the border,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, LAWG Co-director. “Instead of welcoming those seeking safety, the Biden administration is expelling them to Mexico, Central America, Haiti and other countries on daily death flights. Instead of giving people a chance to make their claims heard from within the United States we are returning them to Mexico to wait in danger. This is not what President Biden promised. On the one year anniversary of his taking office, we urge him to change course and rescind Title 42 and Remain in Mexico. This is not who we are as a country. We can do better and must begin the process of restoring access to asylum at our border.”
“For families, children, and adults fleeing violence and persecution, seeking asylum is a human right, and can be a question of life or death. Yet the Biden administration has doubled down on expelling asylum seekers and migrants to danger under Title 42 without even a chance to request protection,” said Stephanie Brewer, Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “This isn’t the change that President Biden promised, and it does nothing to build effective and rights-respecting solutions to forced migration. What the country and the region need is leadership and coordination to ensure protection for refugees and solutions for displaced populations.”
“Broken promises mark President Biden’s one-year anniversary as he continues to uphold policies that endanger the lives of migrants seeking safety”, said Pedro Rios, Director of the US-Mexico Border Program at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). “Instead of dismantling Trump’s harmful and racist policies such as the Title 42 order and the MPP or “Remain in Mexico” program that have caused untold suffering for migrants, the Biden Administration has assumed them as his own and even expanded them despite knowing migrants face immediate peril in Mexico. Border Patrol agents under the Biden Administration continue to commit human rights violations with impunity, and President Biden has yet to recommit the United States to asylum procedures recognized by federal and international laws. As an organization guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light of each person, we must continue to challenge state violence in all its forms and uplift the dignity of the most vulnerable amongst us.”
On the first anniversary of President Biden’s inauguration, we commend his actions on critical policies including reversal of the so-called “Muslim ban” and raising the refugee resettlement ceiling to 125,000,” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. “However, it is deeply concerning that the Biden Administration continues to implement Trump-era policies that block people who have fled their homes from seeking safety in the United States, including Title 42 and the “Remain in Mexico” policy. We are extremely disappointed by these border policies and will continue to urge the Administration to take steps to honor its commitments to protect the dignity of those in search of protection.”
“A year into the Biden administration, the situation has worsened at the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “The Biden administration, despite promises to the contrary, has not only continued, but normalized and in some cases expanded cruel and unjust policies like Title 42 and MPP. These policies force thousands of people who are seeking protection to live in indefinite limbo in life-threatening conditions with no options to seek safety for themselves and their families. The weight of responsibility for these policies and the lives they are endangering is squarely on President Biden’s shoulders. Lives are at stake, and it’s time for President Biden’s actions to match candidate Biden’s promises.”
“One year into President Biden’s term, this administration continues to see border communities and immigrants as a liability rather than a great strength,” said Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of Hope Border Institute. “As an organization working on the border, we have a vision of our region as a place that welcomes vulnerable people on the move, breaks down barriers of inequity and upholds the sacredness of each human being. We welcome opportunities to work with the Biden administration to end Title 42 and Remain in Mexico and craft a dignified and forward-thinking asylum system. We also invite the Vice President to lean back into the essential work of addressing the root causes of forced migration in a way that offers real hope and opportunity to those whose lives are displaced by the pandemic, climate change, violence and poverty.”
“On the one-year anniversary of President Biden’s inauguration we anticipated we would look back on the promise of a more ‘fair and just system’ to ‘reclaim America’s values’ and savor a moment of promises fulfilled,” said Tom Cartwright, Leadership Team of Witness at the Border. “Instead, it is with fathomless sadness that we look back on a year of business as usual with respect to the rejection and push back of those who came to us seeking refuge. We witnessed 6,126 likely ICE Air flights, an increase of 1,282 (26%) from 2020. Of these, 1,056 were removal flights to home countries, an increase of 48 (5%). However, it is not the tubes of steel we see in the air. We see hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters being shamed, shunned, and returned to danger at home, or shuffled around detention centers in the US, many bound head to toe in 5-point shackles. How can anyone witness such acts of purposeful rejection and not recognize the hollow ring of the promise to ‘never turn our backs on who we are or that which makes us uniquely and proudly American’?”
“We are one year into this administration, and we have yet to see the promised restoration of our humanitarian protection system,” said Basma Alawee, Campaign Manager of We Are All America. “People who are fleeing persecution and arriving in the United States have a legal right to seek asylum. Despite this, the Biden administration has continued policies from the last administration, like ‘Remain in Mexico’ and Title 42, that undermine the human right and domestic right to seek humanitarian protection. I ask, President Biden, what will it take for you to fulfill your campaign promises?”
“The Biden administration has completely failed to protect immigrant survivors of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and other gender-based violence,” said Richard Caldarone, Litigation Counsel at the Tahirih Justice Center. “The administration has used a sham ‘public health’ policy to keep countless survivors fleeing for their lives out of the United States, regardless of their health or their vaccination status, while opening the border to tourists. It has restarted, and voluntarily expanded, the illegal ‘Remain in Mexico’ program that forced thousands of survivors to wait for years in areas of Northern Mexico well-known to be particularly dangerous for women, girls, and LGBTQIA+ people. It has brazenly reneged on its promise to compensate survivors illegally torn from their children during the prior administration. It has failed to meaningfully address backlogs in processing survivors’ applications for relief. And it has not even begun to unwind illegal policies enacted under the prior administration that would render it almost impossible for survivors to receive asylum in the United States. The administration’s first year has been a disgraceful failure to ensure survivors receive the protections established by U.S. law.”
Alice Levine of of Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice said, “When President Biden was elected, when Secretary Mayorkas was appointed, and when Dr. Walensky took over the helm of the CDC, we assumed this federal agency would no longer be a puppet of the administration or let itself be used to continue a policy — Title 42 — that is not based in science or public health but is meant to keep out those who seek asylum at our borders, and that the harmful Remain in Mexico policy would be ended. We have asked our elected and appointed leaders to finally acknowledge that the science in no way justifies the continuation of Title 42 and that the U.S. must develop and implement policies that allow those fleeing violence and persecution to exercise their right to seek asylum, as enshrined in U.S. and international law. As we told Secretary Mayorkas and Dr. Walensky in a letter directed to them and signed by Jewish leaders and organizations across the country, their support for the continued use of Title 42 and the continuation (and now expansion) of “Remain in Mexico” are in direct contradiction to the promises made by the Biden campaign and are leading to danger, abuse and death for those fleeing to our borders to seek safety. As an organization based in the Jewish community, both our history (of Jews fleeing persecution and violence around the world) and our values and teachings compel us to stand up forcefully against these inhumane and illegal policies. Keep your promises, President Biden!”
“One year into the Biden administration, immigrant communities are still in need of bold federal leadership that centers and elevates our priorities and concerns. In its first year, the administration achieved few of its campaign promises, and worse yet, continued Trump-era policies like Title 42 and Remain in Mexico that undermine the human right to asylum and place migrants in life-threatening danger,’ said Nicole Melaku, Executive Director of the National Partnership for New Americans. “The efforts of hardworking civil servants in the administration have produced some victories for immigrants, but the administration must quickly seize opportunities to truly lead for the immigrants who secured its electoral victory. The administration has the legal authority and moral imperative to increase protections for Black migrants, survivors of gender violence, those fleeing gang violence, climate change-based refugees, and LGBTQ community members, and must act with urgency.”
“President Biden ran a campaign on the promise to restore welcoming policies however a year into his administration President Biden promise to restore welcome and rebuild the humane protection systems that were dismantled during the Trump era remains unfulfilled. This nation has a legal and moral obligation to allow those seeking refuge the right to claim asylum or other forms of humanitarian relief. It’s time for Biden to fulfill his promises, to prioritize humanity, and work towards welcoming all with dignity,” said Dagemawit Kebede, Refugee Congress Communications and Advocacy Associate.
Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity.
The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is composed of more than 95 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org