FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 3, 2022
One Year Later, Biden Falls Short on Promise to Safe, Orderly & Humane Migration
Washington – One year ago this week, President Biden signed the “Executive Order on Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, to Manage Migration Throughout North and Central America, and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border.” Through this order and other strategies, the Biden administration has repeatedly committed to a comprehensive and collaborative regional approach to migration. Despite this pledge, the administration’s actions, such as the new flights expelling Venezuelans to Colombia under Title 42, show that it is engaging in negotiations with countries throughout Latin America that externalize U.S. borders further south and impede people’s ability to seek protection in the U.S. These flights to Colombia come in addition to ongoing land expulsions to Mexico and expulsion flights that send individuals to their countries of origin, including Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, and Brazil.
The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign calls on the Biden administration to stop pressuring other countries to prevent individuals seeking asylum from reaching the U.S. and instead work with governments throughout the region to strengthen regional protections, without shirking on our responsibilities nor compromising access to asylum at the U.S. southern border.
“When President Biden issued his executive order last February people seeking asylum and their advocates felt hopeful,” said Karen Musalo, Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “It seemed the president was committed to see his campaign promises through and swiftly restart asylum at the southern border. Instead, his administration has put politics before human rights, embracing and defending some of the most egregious policies of the Trump era. The human cost has been staggering. We urge the president to immediately reverse course.”
“Last year President Biden pledged to implement a regional migration strategy that would promote respect for the human rights of asylum seekers,” said Felipe Navarro Lux, Manager of Regional Initiatives at CGRS. “But at nearly every turn, his administration has turned its back on people escaping persecution. The administration’s policy choices have continued to put asylum seekers in danger, punishing them to reinforce the callous message that the president, vice president, and their team have reiterated time and time again: ‘Do not come.’ This is not a humane or effective response to people fleeing for their lives.”
“A year ago, the President articulated a sound, comprehensive strategy to address migration in the Central and North American region, but too little has been done to follow through, make the policies known and sell them to the American people,” said Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice. “Biden has a tool solely at his discretion known as Temporary Protected Status or TPS that can be used under law without Congress or Republicans intervening to stop it or water it down. Granting TPS to Guatemala and redesignating it for El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua would be an investment in regional stability, addressing the root causes of migration and a boost to the U.S. economy and the fight against inflation. Use it.”
“As an Indigenous-led organization, we urge President Biden and his administration to fulfill their promises to create a holistic and comprehensive immigration framework that they promised last year,” said Dr. Jessica Hernandez (Maya Ch’orti’ & Binnizá), Climate Justice Policy Strategist for the International Mayan League. “Indigenous peoples from Abiayala (what is now the Americas) continue to be forcefully displaced from their ancestral lands due policies that systematically deny our rights of self-determination, political persecution, and lack of full legal protection over our lands, territories and natural goods – a cornerstone of accelerated impacts related to climate change, among other factors. Creating this comprehensive and holistic framework would allow this administration to uplift Indigenous rights in the immigration discourse, especially Indigenous peoples from Abiayala.”
“The United States remains the home for many who came here to live healthy lives, free of violence and fear. One year ago President Biden made a commitment to comprehensively address the root causes of migration and safely welcome asylum seekers, it’s now time to start fulfilling that promise by designating or redesignating Temporary Protected Status for Central American countries—including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua—as well as other countries outside of the region, including Cameroon and Mauritania,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. “By designating this status, the president would allow people from these countries the right to work, the ability to support their families, and an avenue to thrive in their new communities. It is far past time for the administration to welcome people with dignity by also ending Trump-era, anti-asylum policies, such as Title 42 and the expanded ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. This doesn’t require politicking, it can simply be done with a stroke of a pen. It’s time to follow up on the promise the president made a year ago and make this happen.”
“At this one year mark,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, “we need to recognize that the Biden-Harris administration still has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address the root causes of migration and the suffering that drives people to leave their homes. To do so, this administration will have to recommit to listening and walking alongside local leaders who have a prophetic vision for the future of their communities. The Root Causes Initiative, a coalition of grassroots and faith-based organizations in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the US, is calling on the administration to effectively address the major drivers of forced migration in the region: advance the rule of law; localize effective aid; promote broad-based economic inclusion; and restore humane immigration policies, including legal pathways to migrate and the restoration of asylum at the US-Mexico border.”
“Migrant communities and advocates are still waiting on the Biden-Harris Administration to fulfill its pledge to turn the page on Trump’s cruel and inhumane asylum policies that endanger, intimidate, and harm individuals and families fleeing for their lives,” said Jane Bentrott, counsel at Justice Action Center. “We know President Biden has the power and legal tools at his disposal to restore asylum and create the dignified immigration system we need. It’s time for the Administration to end Title 42, stop collaboration with other governments to instill fear and suffering among migrants, and welcome with dignity instead.“
“This administration continues to promote destructive policies throughout Latin America that contribute to root causes of forced migration, rather than address them. This includes failures to fully address legacies of prior US interventions in contexts such as Haiti and Guatemala, and criminalization of migrants through negation of the right to seek asylum on both sides of the border,” said Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, leadership team of Witness at the Border. “It also includes militarization of the drug war and destructive extractivist development policies, plus deployment of Mexican and Guatemalan security forces to contain and repress migrant caravans and overall migrant flows in the region. Persistently misguided US policies in Venezuela and Cuba further add to this troubling landscape.”
“One year into the Biden Administration we are seeing a continuation of cruel and inhumane border Trump-era policies”, states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Latin American Working Group (LAWG) co-director. “Far from safe, orderly and humane migration, we are continuing to deny protection to people seeking safety and expelling them to harm. We urge the United States to change course. Instead of externalizing our border and returning refugees to danger in countries they are not even from, the United States should be working with other governments in the region to find solutions so that people can seek protection where they feel safe. The Biden Administration should also press Central American governments to reduce the pervasive corruption, one of the drivers of migration.”
“Even with the context that the Biden-Harris administration inherited a broken immigration system, they must uphold their promise to respect the dignity of all asylum seekers and recognize that seeking asylum is a legal right”, states Guerline Jozef, co-founder and Executive Director at Haitian Bridge Alliance. “To the contrary of the values enlisted in the Executive Order, the administration is fighting in Court to uphold Title 42, a Trump-era policy that essentially closed the border. In addition, we are still seeing continuous racism and further dehumanization of asylum seekers – specifically Black migrants who are being shackled almost every day as they are being sent to a country facing political and social turmoil. This is not a way to Build Back Better. It is beyond time that the administration upholds its promise to a fair and humane immigration system, and starts welcoming our most vulnerable with dignity.”
“President Biden’s actions in the last year fail to meet his executive order to strengthen humanitarian assistance, broaden complementary pathways for protection, and reinstate safe reception of arriving asylum seekers,” said Savitri Arvey, policy advisor for the Migrant Rights & Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Having spoken to women in Mexican migrant shelters, I heard directly how they are suffering under this administration’s policies that force migrants to wait in squalid conditions in Mexico. Women seeking protection reported experiencing sexual and gender-based violence, kidnapping, and feeling unsafe while waiting in uncertainty. There are rights-respecting, sensible, and humane approaches to migration management that the administration continues to disregard – at an enormous cost. The Biden administration must reverse course and restore access to asylum at the border, including at ports of entry, as well as work with countries throughout Latin America to expand access to protection in the region.”
“The Biden administration must urgently fulfill the President’s promise to restore asylum, restart processing at ports of entry and end inhumane Trump policies,” said Eleanor Acer, senior refugee protection at Human Rights First, which just released an assessment of Biden administration progress on the Executive Order. “One year after the Executive Order, the Biden administration is, unconscionably, using Trump policy to deliver people seeking refuge to brutal attacks, kidnappings and torture. Not only do policies that sacrifice human lives and human rights actually cause disorder at the border, but attempts to appease perpetrators of xenophobic fearmongering will continue to bolster their false and destructive narratives to the detriment of our country.”
“The Quixote Center appreciates the Biden administration’s efforts to address the factors that push people to flee their home countries. However, a year later, the reality throughout much of Central America remains dire,” states the Quixote Center. “Rule of law has continued to deteriorate, environmental degradation increasingly displaces climate refugees, and human rights abuses and corruption remain rampant. At the same time, the Biden administration has gone against its promise to revoke some of Trump’s most harmful immigration policies, instead choosing to remove asylum seekers through Title 42 or place them into an expanded version of Remain in Mexico. This has effectively stranded thousands of migrants in Mexico, where they are often the targets of organized crime. We call on the Biden administration to restore asylum by ending Title 42 and the Migrant Protection Protocols. We also urge the administration to grant TPS to Guatemala and redesignate it for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in order to truly support regional stability.”
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