What you need to know about the changes to US refugee policy

Image shows Joe Biden next to a map of North America

President Biden recently took several important steps to reverse the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane asylum policies. With each week bringing in new executive actions and directives, we thought you would be interested in a brief summary of the major changes, what we think about them, and an invitation to join us to learn more.

FIVE key announcements from Biden on asylum so far:

  • Ending family separation at the border and announcing a task force to reunite families
  • Increasing the cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 62,500 this fiscal year and a further increase to 125,000 the following fiscal year (starting October 1, 2021)
  • Terminating so-called ‘safe third country’ agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which had prevented most Central Americans from seeking asylum
  • Eliminating the ‘travel bans’ against 11 countries with large displaced populations, including Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, and Myanmar
  • Suspending and eventually reversing the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy that had forced people seeking asylum at the US border to wait in highly dangerous areas of Mexico

There is a lot to celebrate here. We are glad to see a concerted effort to begin to restore the asylum system and repair the damage and harm inflicted by the Trump administration. However, there is more work to be done for Biden to live up to his promises.

What you need to know at this point:

  • New refugees are still being turned away at the border. The US government continues to use a Trump-era directive (Title 42) and the coronavirus as an excuse to deny individuals and families their right to apply for asylum and instead deport them back to danger.
  • US Embassies have stopped issuing most visas. Trump’s 10014 and 10052 Proclamations are still in place, meaning there are no other ‘regular’ ways of entering the US for most non-US citizens and their families.
  • The reversal of MPP only applies to around 1 in 3 people subjected to the program. Only those with active MPP cases (around 25,000) will be allowed through the border under the current scheme, while many more are still on waiting lists, were forced to give up waiting, or were unlawfully denied their right to asylum.
  • Under Trump, asylum claims in Mexico more than quadrupled. The US shutting its doors on refugee individuals and families has placed significant pressure on the chronically underfunded asylum systems in Mexico and other host countries in the region.

The bottom line here is that the US is still not living up to its international obligations and, as a result, displaced individuals and families are continuing to be denied their right to live somewhere safe where they can rebuild their lives.

Join us to learn more about what needs to be done next

As the largest provider of legal aid to refugees in Mexico, Asylum Access Mexico has witnessed firsthand the harmful and ongoing impact of the US turning its back on those in need of protection. We invite you to join us to learn more about the importance and urgency of restoring asylum in the US and the wider region.