Human Rights First Welcomes First Steps to Repair Damage to Asylum System

Urgent Action Still Needed to Transit Vulnerable People to Safety in the U.S.

WASHINGTON – Human Rights First welcomed President Biden’s executive orders and announcement of steps toward restoring U.S. leadership in protecting people seeking refuge in the United States. The organization urged the Biden administration to uphold U.S. refugee laws and treaties, restore access to asylum, end expulsions based on the misuse of public health authority, and transit asylum seekers stranded in danger to safety in the United States.

“President Biden’s executive orders are important initial steps toward undoing the chaos and illegality of the last four years,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “The reviews directed by today’s orders should be conducted with great urgency. Every day that these illegal policies are left in place, people seeking this country’s protection continue to suffer kidnappings, attacks, and family separations. The administration must end the violations of our refugee laws and treaties.”

Human Rights First welcomed the executive orders’ directions to launch a task force to reunite separated families, address factors pushing people to flee in search of asylum, support stronger asylum and refugee protection in other countries, and build regional refugee resettlement capacities.

We applaud the president’s rescission of the Trump administration’s unlawful, anti-asylum executive orders and proclamations. Human Rights First urges the administration to ensure U.S. asylum laws are upheld all along the border, not only at ports of entry and stresses that the United States has the capacity to meet its humanitarian and legal commitments.

As the Biden administration continues to take steps to restore and strengthen U.S. asylum, Human Rights First implores the administration and agency leaders to swiftly:

  • Uphold U.S. refugee law and treaties, end Title 42 misuse of public health authority, and do not turn away to danger people seeking U.S. refugee protection;
  • Bring asylum seekers stranded in danger under the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) into safety;
  • Issue additional instructions on the redress processes for other asylum seekers harmed by Trump administration anti-asylum policies to secure a fair assessment of eligibility for U.S. refugee protection;
  • Take swift action and necessary steps to rescind the third country transit ban, the dangerous “asylum cooperative agreements,” and other rules, rulings, and policies that violate U.S. refugee law and treaties;
  • Do not use flawed expedited removal processing;
  • Ramp-up case management, use legal parole authority, and do not send people seeking U.S. refugee protection to immigration jails while their asylum cases are adjudicated; and
  • Ensure asylum seekers receive work authorization, as provided by U.S. law, so that they can support themselves and their families while their cases are being adjudicated.

Human Rights First’s recommendations to the Biden administration are outlined:

  • In this summary and its October 2020 blueprint;
  • This guide to ending MPP; and
  • The December 2020 report detailing the damage inflicted on asylum seekers by the Trump administration’s MPP and Title 42 expulsion policies. As documented in that report, Human Rights First has tracked more than 1,300 public reports of asylum seekers in MPP who suffered kidnapping or other attacks in Mexico.
  • A joint letter with faith-based, legal services, humanitarian and human rights organizations calling on the Biden administration to end the misuse of Title 42 public health authority to block and expel asylum seekers and migrants.

Additionally, leading public health experts, along with Human Rights First, have recommended an end to bans, expulsions and the misuse of public health authority, and instead, the use of evidence-based public health measures outlined in this set of public health recommendations.

Human Rights First has, over the last four years, extensively documented and publicly reported on the illegality, chaos and human toll of the Trump administration’s MPPtransit bans, and other anti-asylum policies. The organization has also filed lawsuits that secured orders vacating the asylum entry and transit bans and provided pro bono legal representation to many refugees impacted by Trump administration policies that violate U.S. human rights obligations.


Published on February 2, 2021


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