Upholding And Upgrading Asylum
Recommendations for the Biden Administration
Nearly three years into his administration, the President should pursue effective and humane strategies that adhere to refugee law to better manage migration. To meet its refugee protection and migration management objectives, the administration should honor the commitment the president made during his campaign to restore asylum — a life-saving protection that many Americans deeply value.
The administration should strengthen its important regional refugee resettlement and parole initiatives; increase humanitarian aid to address refugee protection gaps that push people north; maximize access to U.S. ports of entry; upgrade asylum adjudications; and improve coordination, resources, and swift access to work permits.
Policies that ban, block, or punish people seeking asylum inflict disorder and massive human rights abuses. In the months that the administration’s temporary asylum has been in use, it has inflicted terrible human suffering and proven counterproductive to both refugee protection and migration management objectives. While a federal court ruled in July 2023 that the asylum ban is unlawful, the policy remains in place on appeal. The administration must end the temporary asylum ban and other policies that endanger, punish, or deny paths to citizenship to people who qualify for asylum under our laws.
Irregular crossings at the southwest border are driven by factors that include deteriorating conditions and protection deficiencies in other refugee-hosting countries; rampant misinformation; escalating kidnappings, torture, and assaults targeting migrants and asylum seekers who wait in Mexico; and the abysmal conditions and lack of safe shelter facing those who wait there. Also spurring crossings is the lack of proper access to U.S. ports of entry in the wake of the asylum ban — including wait times for appointments, inequities and numerical limits on appointments, and the lack of sufficient access to ports of entry for at-risk people without appointments.
The Biden administration must counter racist narratives and reject dehumanizing and divisive rhetoric. Over the last few years, public discourse relating to asylum has been plagued by orchestrated, politically driven, anti-immigrant rhetoric that portrays migrants and people seeking asylum as threats and invaders. This invasion rhetoric is rooted in, and fans, anti-democratic extremist conspiracy narratives embraced by far-right white supremacists, including by the perpetrators of mass killings in El Paso, Texas, and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg.
The administration must also stop promoting policies that inflict punishment on people seeking protection. Touting the use of a “stick” against people seeking refuge will never appease the perpetrators of xenophobic, racist rhetoric; it bolsters their dangerous narratives while adding to dysfunction and creating more suffering, as well as damaging respect around the world for refugee law.
While our recommendations aim to help the Biden administration strengthen the asylum system, Congressional support is critical to a functioning, rights-respecting system. Legislative efforts to deprive humane and effective policies of necessary funding, or to shut down government operations, are sure to spur disorder.