Biden Administration’s One Year Anniversary: Suffering Inflicted by Border Policy Hits New Record

WASHINGTON – Nearly one year into President Biden’s term, a new report released by Human Rights First finds that his administration’s use of the Trump Title 42 policy that blocks and expels asylum seekers continues to inflict record suffering. The Biden administration has failed to fulfill Biden’s commitment to restore compliance with U.S. asylum law as it prepares to defend the use of the policy again in court next week.

Human Rights First’s new report, “Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum,” finds at least 8,705 reports of kidnappings, torture, rape and other violent attacks against people expelled to danger in Mexico or blocked from seeking U.S. protection at the border during the first year of the Biden presidency. The report also finds that, as the Biden administration rolls out the restarted ‘Remain in Mexico’ program in the wake of court rulings, the administration has already returned asylum seekers from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and other countries back to danger in Mexico under this inherently flawed Trump-era policy that sends asylum seekers to “wait” for their day in immigration court in Mexico.

“President Biden’s first year in office has set a shameful new record on human rights as his administration continues to deliver asylum seekers to danger in Mexico,” said Kennji Kizuka, associate director for refugee protection research at Human Rights First and co-author of the report. “The Biden administration is well aware of the grave harm asylum seekers suffer when sent to Mexico and yet it has continued to use a policy condemned by public health experts, international authorities, civil rights leaders, and even departing members of President Biden’s administration.”

As the first year of President Biden’s term concludes, Human Rights First also issued a new assessment concluding that, despite some welcome steps, the Biden administration has failed to fulfill his commitment to restore asylum. This failure, and the administration’s use of the horrific “Title 42” policy that evades refugee law and endangers human lives, has stained the president’s record. The organization outlined key steps the administration should take to fulfill President Biden’s commitments and restore compliance with U.S. asylum law. The one-year recommendations and assessment are here.

“One year into his administration, President Biden’s promise to uphold asylum law remains alarmingly unfulfilled and his administration’s continued use of inhumane Trump-era policies to turn away people seeking refuge is inflicting massive human rights abuses and staining the president’s record,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “The president should direct his administration to end this travesty and restore asylum before these policies cause even more suffering, disorder at the border and damage to his administration’s credibility.”

The findings of the new report, “Shameful Recordinclude:

  • Nearly one year into the Biden administration, there have already been at least 8,705 reports of kidnappings, rape, torture, and other violent attacks on migrants and asylum seekers expelled to or blocked in Mexico due to the Biden administration’s use of the Title 42 policy.
  • Title 42 expulsions of Haitians have continued to escalate, separating families, and returning migrants and asylum seekers to growing political instability and violence in Haiti, as the Biden administration continues to deny them the protection of U.S. asylum law. Since September 2021, the Biden administration has returned more than 14,000 people to Haiti, including at least 2,200 children.
  • The restart of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy has led to at least 149 Nicaraguans, 47 Venezuelans, and 17 Cubans returned to danger in Mexico – many returned despite already suffering grave harms in Mexico or despite purported exemptions, including LGBTQ asylum seekers. Remain in Mexico continues to be a fundamentally flawed, due-process and human rights disaster.
  • In addition to inflicting grave and systematic suffering, these policies continue to perpetuate disorder, encourage repeat entries, inflate apprehension statistics, cause family separations, and fuel cartels by putting a bullseye on the backs of people seeking U.S. asylum who are blocked in Mexico.
  • The Title 42 and Remain in Mexico policies are endangering public health and the lives of asylum seekers. The implementation of Title 42 confirms that it is not a tool of public health, but instead being used as an ineffective and flawed migration management tool.

Human Rights First urges the Biden administration to immediately fulfill the president’s commitment to comply with U.S. asylum law, end the Trump-era Title 42 and Remain in Mexico policies, halt illegal and inhumane expulsions to Haiti and other countries and restart asylum protections along the U.S.-Mexico border, including at ports of entry.

The full report can be found here.


Published on January 13, 2021


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