Real Solutions, Not An End to Asylum

Policy Solutions to Safeguard and Strengthen the U.S. Asylum System

Our immigration system requires smart, humane solutions so families and individuals can seek asylum and access protection. The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign recommends four practical solutions below. The principle at the heart of our path forward is: Do no harm. Policies that restrict or ban access to asylum are unlawful, counterproductive and put people and communities in harm’s way.

1. Restore access to asylum at our nation’s border. 

The Biden administration and Congress need to 1) Properly staff ports of entry along the U.S. border to efficiently and safely process people seeking safety; and 2) Immediately increase the number of CBP One appointments available and expand the program to all ports. Every person seeking to exercise their legal right to apply for asylum must be provided a fair and meaningful opportunity to do so, following international law standards.

2. Support existing systems and launch new ones to receive and integrate people seeking safety. 

The Biden administration and Congress need to support and fund systems that meet people’s immediate and long-term needs as they navigate the U.S. immigration process. As a first step, the White House should establish a centralized office that works with agencies, states, localities, and nonprofits to coordinate and fund humane reception and integration of people seeking asylum. These systems should provide interpretation and culturally appropriate services and include short- and long-term housing solutions; medical and mental health care, transportation support to final destinations, and support accessing work opportunities, education, and child care. Importantly, strengthening these systems benefits longstanding members of our communities and newcomers. 

3. Create a more effective and timely immigration system. 

The immigration process is under-resourced, both failing to provide the due process rights of people seeking safety and creating inefficiencies for the government, leaving people in unnecessary limbo. The Biden administration and Congress need to fund more immigration court staff, interpreters, immigration judges and asylum officers. Increasing access to legal representation and information for people seeking asylum is critical so the system can function fairly and efficiently. Work permit applications also need to be more accessible, with shorter processing times to allow migrants and their families to become independent sooner. 

4. Strengthen refugee resettlement programs and other pathways to the United States.

The U.S. government must continue to invest in overseas and domestic refugee programs, allowing people with approved cases to travel to the United States safely and reunite swiftly with loved ones already here. Congress should also create additional pathways for people to migrate. These programs should complement – never replace – robust asylum access at the southern border.

There are many practical actions the U.S. government can take to maximize its resources and protect the lives of refugees. By redirecting funding away from failed policies of exclusion, and instead embracing smart and humane solutions that support local communities, we can live up to our ideals and strengthen our immigration system as a whole, for the benefit of all.

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Some of the world’s leading experts on refugee protection, asylum law, and border management are partners in the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign. Below is a roundup of resources that present real solutions the Biden administration should implement, instead of abandoning his promises and reverting to failed policies that cut off access to asylum. Included are both short- and long-term recommendations for federal, state, and local agencies to welcome people with dignity and to address the root causes of forced migration.

N.B. The resources below belong to the individual organizations and are not property of or endorsed by every member of the Welcome With Dignity Campaign. 

  • The New York Immigration Coalition: Welcoming New York Campaign
    This moment calls for a robust, coordinated response from the Federal level down to the local level – one that will meet basic needs, but that will also help rebuild the welcoming system for asylum-seekers and refugees gutted during the Trump administration. (2023) READ MORE
  • Women’s Refugee Commission: Welcoming and Supporting People Seeking Asylum: Lessons Learned in New York City and Portland, Maine
    As part of a multi-city project, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) recently went to New York City (NYC) and Portland, Maine, to see how these cities are responding to the needs of people seeking asylum or other forms of protection in the US. What we learned can inform state and local policy and program design in towns and cities around the US where people seeking asylum are arriving, as well as federal policy and funding approaches. (Sep 2023) READ MORE
  • Jesuit Refugee Services: Accompaniment at the U.S.-Mexico Border: Conditions Report & Policy Recommendations 
    TIn this report, with information sourced from interviews and visits to shelters in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso in summer 2023, JRS/USA and JRS Mexico present a snapshot of current conditions in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso and how U.S. policies adversely impact protection, mental health, and public health challenges. (Sep 2023) READ MORE
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association: Policy Brief: What Does a Secure Border Look Like?
    To ensure lasting and meaningful change at the border, border security reforms must happen in tandem with other improvements to the immigration system. AILA offers recommendations for efficient, fair border processing, and managing migration. (May 2023) READ MORE
  • Jewish Family Services of San Diego (JFSSD) and Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC): Welcoming People Seeking Safety: A San Diego Blueprint for Humanitarian Reception
    The reception model in San Diego stands out as an example of an effective public-private partnership that centers humanity and welcoming through the integration of respite, legal empowerment, and public health services.  This explainer includes ways that governments and communities across the US can build upon and adapt from the experiences of the SDRRN/JFSSD. (Feb 2023)  READ MORE
  • Women’s Refugee Commission: Halfway Into Term, Biden Administration Has Yet to Fulfill Its Promises to Asylum Seekers
    Rather than expanding immigration detention and implementing asylum bans, WRC urges the Biden administration to expand safe migration pathways, establish an accessible and dignified asylum system, and prioritize the well-being of all people seeking safety in the US. (Jan 2023) READ MORE
  • Human Rights First: Leading By Example
    The Biden administration should, working with Congress, redouble U.S. support to help strengthen refugee hosting capacities in other countries, build and improve upon its positive steps of providing parole and other safe migration pathways for some people from these countries, while upholding asylum and refugee law at home — a more humane, effective and legal approach. (Jan 2023) FULL REPORT | SUMMARY
  • First Focus: Border Policies that Protect and Support Children
    Too often, children and families are met with rejection at our border that exposes them to violence and exploitation, family separation, detention, and a complex and confusing immigration system that they must navigate without support. To protect and support children arriving at our border, the U.S. must… (Jan 2023) READ MORE
  • National Immigrant Justice Center: Solutions for a Humane Border Policy
    Despite campaign commitments to restore humanity to immigration policy, the Biden administration has largely continued Trump-era policies at the U.S.-Mexico border. What should the Biden administration be doing to address the humanitarian need at the border? There are other ways to address the situation at the border, leading with empathy and courage in compliance with the Refugee Act of 1980. (Jan 2023) READ MORE
  • Tahirih Justice Center and Oxfam: Surviving Deterrence: How US Asylum Deterrence Policies Normalize Gender-Based Violence
    To rectify harms on survivors of gender-based violence, the US must implement a vastly different system than the one it currently employs. It must be one that is humane and that actively centers the legal rights and dignity of asylum seekers and migrants, rather than one that harms them. This new approach requires a significant normative shift in US politics and public discourse. (2022) READ MORE
  • #WelcomeWithDignity’s Recommendations to Restart Asylum at the Border
    We call on the U.S. government to take immediate steps to restore asylum at the border and build a system that welcomes with dignity. (Sep 2022) READ MORE
  • National Immigration Forum: 42 Border Solutions That Are Not Title 42
    The following 42 border solutions would create sustainable asylum and border management processes, address the root causes of migration, and implement practical and needed border security reforms. They would lead to a more humane, more orderly, and more secure border. (May 2022) READ MORE
  • Hope Border Institute: Root Causes of U.S. Migration
    Fundamental change in U.S. policy is needed if we’re going to help create a Central America where families can thrive, access good economic opportunity, and live in safety. This framework is the outcome of more than a year of work organizing faith and grassroots partners in the region. (Dec 2020) READ MORE

President Biden was inaugurated three years ago, on January 20, 2021. He promised to restore our asylum system. Instead, he has:

    • Embraced Trump-era policies blocking access to asylum
    • Imposed new asylum bans
    • Sent families back to danger

#WelcomeWithDignity and our partners are calling on this administration to keep their promises and restore access to asylum at our border.