Washington, D.C. – Following a call this weekend between President-elect Joe Biden and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in which they discussed what Biden called a “new and orderly humane approach to migration,” the incoming administration Monday highlighted initial plans on immigration and asylum.
Biden has already promised to immediately end certain Trump-era border policies that eviscerated the U.S. asylum system, including the Migrant Protection Protocols (known as “Remain in Mexico”) and travel bans (known as the “Muslim Ban” and “Transit Ban”), upon taking office.
In an interview published Monday evening, Susan Rice and Jake Sullivan—Biden’s picks for head of the White House Domestic Policy Council and National Security Advisor, respectively—discussed plans to undo destructive Trump-era policies while working on short- and long-term policies to address the root causes of migration, expand lawful pathways for migrants, and to “restoring and honoring” asylum laws.
In response to the latest announcements from the incoming administration, Senior Director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women’s Refugee Commission Michelle Brané issued the following statement:
“This is a positive step in the right direction by President-elect Biden and his team. The United States has long been a place of hope, where people from around the world can seek freedom, safety, and protection from persecution. For the last four years, the Trump administration betrayed American values—and the law—by creating chaos at and beyond our borders, and a nightmare for asylum-seeking families. It is time to turn the page and build an asylum system that is fair and orderly, and which works for America.
“We welcome these commitments from President-elect Biden, and look forward to working with his administration to ensure they become reality, but it is imperative that this recent news mark just the beginning of a new era in U.S. border policies, as well as in the way in which the U.S. government engages with our neighboring countries to collaborate on issues related to immigration.
“We can and must build an asylum program that welcomes people seeking safety—and strengthens America’s security, economy, and humanity while undoing the chaos created by the Trump administration. Regional investment and opportunities are important, but we must also rebuild and stand up to our international commitments to provide a process for those seeking protection at our borders.
“While we understand that undoing the chaos and repairing the damage done by the Trump administration will take time, we must prioritize our human rights commitments. We must end the expulsion and mass detention of people seeking asylum, full stop. We hope to see the Biden administration establish a U.S. policy where people who come to the U.S. border seeking asylum are processed safely and fairly, and released to their family members in the U.S.—or to a community sponsor if they don’t have family in the U.S.—while their cases are being heard in court.
“Those seeking asylum should be allowed to live in local U.S. communities and, if needed, provided with support, such as referrals to legal, medical, or social services through appropriate case management programs, to ensure they find stability and understand the immigration process while awaiting their asylum decision.
“We look forward to working with the incoming administration to advance and modernize our asylum system so that is indeed orderly and humane.”