CGRS Welcomes Day One Immigration Announcements, Urges Swift Action on Asylum

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

On this historic inauguration day, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) welcomes President Biden’s first round of immigration policy announcements, which mark a clear departure from the unrelenting racism and unlawful, anti-immigrant policies of the Trump era. This afternoon we expect the president to sign off on a series of executive actions on immigration, including an end to the blatantly discriminatory Muslim and African bans and the revocation of harsh interior immigration enforcement policies. The president will also send a bill to Congress that offers a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who call the United States home. Critically, the president’s new immigration bill also:

  • Expands case management programs that support families navigating the immigration process, rather than punish and incarcerate them
  • Authorizes funding for legal orientation programs and representation for children and other vulnerable immigrants and asylum seekers
  • Eliminates the harmful one-year filing deadline for asylum claims
  • Resumes the Central American Minors program and establishes in-country refugee processing centers throughout Central America
  • Directs critical aid to address the root causes of forced migration

These announcements promise to deliver long overdue relief to immigrant and refugee communities and bring greater fairness to the immigration process. But they represent only a first step, and sustained action from both the president and Congress are required in the weeks ahead.

In the coming days, we expect the Biden administration to announce its plans to rebuild the U.S. asylum system. We urge President Biden to uphold his promises to people seeking refuge, and immediately end Remain in Mexico and other draconian policies that have kept tens of thousands of asylum seekers trapped in dangerous conditions at the southern border. Without delay, the Biden administration should resume processing of asylum seekers at the border and parole those suffering under Trump-era policies into the United States to pursue their claims in safety. These courageous families, children, and adults should be offered the support of community-based case management and should never be placed in unsafe detention facilities.

“President Biden has the opportunity to bring the U.S. back into compliance with our domestic and international obligations to protect those fleeing persecution,” CGRS Director Karen Musalo said today. “We urge him to reverse heartless policies which are counter to the law and have put desperate asylum seekers at grave risk. We know he will face challenges in doing so, but CGRS is ready to work with his administration. Our commitment is to not only roll back the devastating policies of the past four years, but also address the deeply entrenched racism in our immigration and refugee laws, which often result in the exclusion of Black and brown migrants. It’s past time to rebuild and re-envision an asylum system that welcomes asylum seekers with dignity – and fulfills the United States’ promise of equal justice under the law for all.”

Read CGRS’s asylum policy recommendations for the Biden administration here.