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Statement from the Women’s Refugee Commission on the Election of Joseph R. Biden, Jr., as the 46th President of the United States

NEW YORK, NY – The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) congratulates Joe Biden on being elected as the 46th President of the United States. We also congratulate Kamala Harris on her historic election as the first woman Vice President—and first woman Vice President of color—in the nation’s history.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done to restore global U.S. leadership and reset U.S. priorities globally and at home. We couldn’t agree more with President-elect Biden who said, “there is no time to waste.”

As an organization focused on the rights of displaced women, children, and youth, WRC urges the incoming Biden administration to ensure its plan for the first 100 days includes immediate steps to re-establish U.S. leadership on humanitarian and human rights issues.

With record levels of people displaced by conflict, the majority of whom are women and children, the Biden administration must restore the rights of those seeking asylum in the U.S.—rights that have been decimated under the Trump administration. WRC also calls for immediate action to protect the human rights of refugees globally, expand support for gender equality in humanitarian action, and promote access to humanitarian services for all those in need, including sexual and reproductive health care.

To take forward this humanitarian and human rights agenda in the first 100 days, WRC recommends the following:

Propose strong increased funding in the President’s Budget Request for humanitarian assistance that is rights based, addresses the needs of those most at risk, particularly women and girls, promotes gender equality, and supports self-reliance goals. Include needed resources for a revived and robust U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Renew the U.S. commitment to gender equality in its humanitarian, development, and peace and security work. Using USAID’s 2012 Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy as the starting point, develop an updated policy that builds on progress and learning to date, emphasizes the importance of sexual and reproductive health care, and promotes the full participation of the most marginalized, including adolescent girls, LGBTQI persons, and women and girls with disabilities. Also review, update, and resource the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security and agency implementation plans to ensure a more detailed framework with strong accountability mechanisms.

Take action to ensure access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion care. This includes rescinding the Mexico City Policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule) and working with Congress to repeal the Helms and Hyde amendments and repeal the Kemp-Kasten amendment and replace it with language consistent with the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Expand efforts to address gender-based violence in humanitarian settings. Immediately affirm U.S. membership in and leadership support for the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies.

Re-establish U.S. leadership on global humanitarian and human rights policy and practice by joining the United Nations Global Compact for Migration, affirming full support for the Global Compact on Refugees, and strengthening U.S. engagement on effective implementation of both Compacts. Re-engage with the UN Human Rights Council and strengthen advocacy on the rights of crisis-affected people, including women human rights defenders. Restore funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and for the World Health Organization (WHO), whose role in humanitarian response in the time of COVID-19 is more critical than ever. Also restore funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides assistance and protection for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. Re-join the Paris Accord to help prevent and mitigate climate-related disasters and displacement.

Restore the rights and respect the dignity of displaced people in search of protection. Reverse policies that have closed the border to asylum seekers and unaccompanied children, including ending the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, also known as “Remain in Mexico”); ending the use of Asylum Country Agreements (ACAs) with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras; rescinding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order barring entry to asylum seekers; and immediately resuming the processing of asylum seekers at the border. Repeal all iterations of the Muslim, African, and asylum travel bans, and ensure that foreign policy addresses root causes of migration and supports access to protection (including asylum), and is not focused on deterrence.

Immediately begin to restore the integrity of the asylum system. Restore eligibility for asylum for survivors of domestic violence, victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), gang violence, and members of the LGBTQI community. Withdraw or reverse decisions by the Attorney General and Board of Immigration Appeals that narrowed the refugee definition and due process in contradiction with human rights norms.

Phase out the use of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. Apply a presumption of release and invest in appropriate community-based case management programs instead of immigration detention. Immediately end family detention. Implement meaningful oversight and accountability mechanisms over DHS detention and custody policies.

Stop separating families at the border and in the interior. Immigration policies and practices must respect family unity. Families should neither be separated nor detained together.

End the use of expedited processing and other measures that inhibit due process. Immediately reverse the expansion of “expedited removal” and ensure that all those in immigration proceedings have a fair day in court. Protect sensitive locations from enforcement actions.

The Women’s Refugee Commission looks forward to working with the Biden administration to repair the devastating impacts of the Trump administration’s actions over the last four years, and to proactively advance the rights and protections of displaced persons around the world.

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