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Advocates and Experts Discuss Biden-Harris Plans for Asylum on Press Conference Call Today

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A recording of the call is available here.


Earlier today, immigration advocates and experts from the U.S. and Mexico discussed the next round of Biden-Harris administration plans and policies addressing asylum, border, and related issues that had originally been scheduled for release on Friday (tomorrow). Before the call, press reports circulated that the planned announcements had been delayed until early next week, but there was a full discussion with reporters of the expected policies aimed at reforming various aspects of the immigration system including rebuilding the broken asylum system and managing migration. 

Amidst a series of other immigration priorities, these initiatives prioritize the safety of those seeking asylum and manage the reception of refugees entering our country, especially those fleeing violence and persecution in various parts of the world.

“The news this morning is that the executive actions that we expected tomorrow are going to be delayed, but we are confident that they are coming and that they are coming soon,” Michelle Brané, Senior Director for Migrant Rights and Justice Program, Women’s Refugee Commission (Moderator), said on the call. “Some of the things we are expecting are executive orders on asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, refugee resettlement, and the reunification of migrant families. Instead of the chaos and intentional cruelty that the Trump era brought us, we expect the Biden administration to make it a top priority to implement practical policies, to reduce migration pressures, and to process asylum seekers fairly and humanely – which includes ending the Remain in Mexico Program (MPP). The President has made it clear that he plans to undo the cruel Trump policies that are endangering the lives of thousands of men, women, and children. It’s critical that he does so with deliberate speed.”

Sister Tracey Horan SP, Associate Director of Education and Advocacy, Kino Border Initiative (Nogales), said, “As people of faith, we cannot continue to stand by as migrants waiting at the US-Mexico border face violence, family separation, freezing temperatures and hunger, most while family members await to welcome them in the U.S. Public health experts have been clear: there are safe ways to reinstate asylum processing at the border. We can’t wait another day to begin that process, and we look forward to working with the Biden Administration to make this happen.” 

Josefa, a migrant waiting under MPP, was introduced by Sister Tracey who translated her remarks from Spanish to English. Josefa said: “I fled persecution with my family in Venezuela and have waited at the border in Mexico for 408 days with my son. Over the past year, the uncertainty has been overwhelming. It has led to emotional and physical illness, many doctor’s visits. My son despairs every day that he talks to his dad in the U.S. He asks me, ‘Mom, when? When can we be with him again?’ We simply ask the Biden administration to fulfill the promises they made during the campaign, to me and others under MPP, and all waiting for their right to seek asylum in the U.S. Our families are waiting for us, and we only want protection and security for our families.”

Tania García, Legal Clinic Coordinator, Espacio Migrante (Tijuana), said, “Since the closure of the border by the pandemic, the asylum seekers have been forgotten and abandoned by both governments. Thousands ran out of job, housing, without the ability to secure food for themselves and their families, without any support networks and no information on what will happen to their cases in court. There has been no rapprochement of the authorities to disseminate information, in this time of uncertainty, generating a very strong impact on the mental health of asylum seekers” 

Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), said, “Black asylum seekers have been the face of resisting the injustices on both sides of the US and Mexican borders. For instance, the African Assembly, formed by Black asylum seekers in Tapachula, have documented and protested the violence and trauma that they experience every day. Black asylum-seekers have similarly protested inhumane detention conditions in the U.S. Black and LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, many of whom are also Black, face violent and traumatic anti-Blackness, homophobia and transphobia in Mexico. We demand that the Biden administration immediately allow asylum-seekers at the U.S. southern border to enter the U.S. and make their asylum claims without detention.”

“What we have seen in the last four years proves that the system must be fundamentally eradicated and reimagined to embody the values we adhere to as a sensible and humane society. It is in dire need of immediate change,” Margaret Cargioli, Managing Attorney, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, said. “The Biden-Harris administration must take a hard look at immigration law and its agencies to answer, ‘How did we all wake up one day to hear that children were being held in cages; that children were torn apart from their parents and were crying out for them in heart wrenching pain? How did we so quickly dispel thousands towards impending hunger, and abuse in Mexico while expelling others to countries like Cameroon where those deported would surely be tortured after having fled for their safety? Who benefits from caging immigrants?; Why must families be torn apart by immigrant detention?’”

“U.S. asylum and border policies should be grounded in evidence and human rights, not pseudoscience and xenophobia,” Dr. Michele Heisler, Medical Director, Physicians for Human Rights and Professor of Internal Medicine and Public Health, University of Michigan, said. “We are encouraged by the Biden administration’s early efforts to reverse some of the abhorrent policies of the Trump administration, which subjected tens of thousands of asylum seekers to severe dangers in Mexico with no due process. Public health experts have developed detailed guidance for the administration to simultaneously protect public health during the pandemic and honor our ethical and legal duty to respect the right to seek asylum. After four years of inhumanity and the destruction of the decades-long U.S. asylum system, the Biden administration should let science lead our COVID-19 policies and respect the humanity of people who seek refuge from persecution in the United States.” 

Dr. Heisler noted that earlier today, public health experts, in a new letter to Acting HHS Secretary Cochran and CDC Director Walensky, urged the CDC to rescind a discriminatory order that has been used to block and expel asylum seekers and children at the border and to adopt rational, science-based measures to safeguard the health of the American public and people seeking refugee protection.