Upholding President Biden’s Asylum Commitments
18-Month Progress Checklist Since February 2021 Executive Order
It has been more than one-and-a-half years since President Biden issued his February 2, 2021 Executive Order, directing steps to manage migration in North and Central America and to “restore and strengthen our own asylum system,” which was “badly damaged by [Trump administration] policies enacted over the last 4 years that contravened our values and caused needless human suffering.” Over eighteen months later, many of President Biden’s commitments have not yet been fulfilled—in some cases due to lawsuits filed by allies of the prior administration and in other cases due to the slow pace of agency action to fulfil the executive order’s direction. As a result, the United States continues to flout both the Refugee Convention and the refugee laws enacted by Congress.
The Biden administration and U.S. agencies have taken steps towards ending some of the most notorious Trump administration policies, including the initial termination and subsequent re-termination of Remain in Mexico, the (belated) issuance of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order to end the Title 42 policy, vacating Attorney General rulings that sought to deny asylum to refugee survivors of gender-based persecution, and rescinding work authorization deprivations and the expansion of expedited removal to the interior. But critical steps to bring to safety those subjected to Remain in Mexico, to uphold asylum law at U.S. ports of entry and elsewhere along the border, and to fully end Trump policies, including Title 42, that block refugees from asylum remain. Of grave concern, the administration has not yet taken key steps to firmly end the Trump-era entry, transit, and third-country asylum bans, despite the Executive Order’s directions for review and prompt action. Overall, the agencies directed to act in the Executive Order have not met announced timelines for regulatory action and rule publications have been repeatedly delayed.
Human Rights First continues to urge the Biden administration to restore compliance with U.S. asylum law and fulfil President Biden’s directives in the Executive Order. These urgent steps should include:
- comply with refugee law at the border, including to restore asylum processing at U.S. ports of entry;
- take all permissible steps to end the use of President Trump’s Title 42 travesty, including issuing formal rulemaking to terminate the Title 42 order and complying with a federal court order requiring fear screenings of asylum-seeking families that should also be extended to adults;
- quickly winddown the Remain in Mexico policy and ensure that all individuals subjected to this human rights and due process horror are transited to safety in the United States and provided a fair opportunity for their asylum claims to be decided;
- firmly end President Trump’s entry, transit, unsafe third-country and public health ban regulations, and the “death to asylum” rule; and
- issue long-overdue asylum regulations to ensure that survivors of gender- and gang-based violence as well as other refugees fleeing persecution due to their membership in a particular social group are granted U.S. asylum protection and address, through publication of a final rule, serious due process and access to counsel concerns with the new asylum processing rule.