Joe Biden, then-presidential candidate, made his most ambitious speech on June 20, 2020, World Refugee Day. statement to date on how his administration would differ from his predecessor’s on the rights of migrants. Gone would be the “xenophobia and racism” that were “the unabashed tenets of Trump’s refugee and immigration policy.” Biden pledged to increase the cap on refugees allowed into the United States to 125,000 in his first year in office, and to restore “America’s historic role as leader in resettlement and defending the rights of refugees everywhere.”
His first year didn’t go as planned.
The United States resettled only 11,411 refugees in the fiscal year that ended in October 2021. That’s 400 fewer than the previous fiscal year — which itself saw historically low resettlement — and far short of the 62,500 that Biden eventually orderedto be allowed in the United States to resettle in his first year of office. The U.S. released data only for the first month, which shows that 401 refugees had been resettled. Biden raised the cap to 125,000. This would be a significant turnaround over the past two decades. The last time the U.S. resettled more that 100,000 refugees was in 1994.
An additional 40,000 Afghans were temporarilyThey are allowed into the United States under humanitarian parole. However they have not been granted green cards and in most cases their status is not known. expiresIn a year or so. About 30,000 Afghans are still held on military bases and waiting to be allowed into America.
Sunil Varghese was the policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Program. Truthout that Biden’s low numbers have a lot to do with Donald Trump’s successful dismantling of the resettlement infrastructure, but plenty of blame rests with the current administration as well. Biden’s “rhetoric of a human rights-centric approach to migration and foreign policy may not be an overarching, guiding principle, but one of many competing considerations,” Varghese said.
Others who are refugees advocates agree with Trump’s decision to eliminate refugee screening and support systems. “The process of facilitating the resettlement of displaced persons into the U.S. is not like a light switch that can be turned on and off,” said Danielle Grigsby, director of external affairs at the Community Sponsorship Hub, which connects refugees with local sponsors and advocates. “The damage inflicted on the resettlement infrastructure will take significant time to repair.”
Biden’s immigration, asylum and refugee policies in general have been a decidedly mixed bag. While his administration has acted on some long-held progressive priorities and many others have been left behind, Biden’s administration has done a lot to implement others. According to the White House, the administration ended the U.S. long-standing policy of keeping immigrant families in detention centers that resemble prisons. Axios. “This is truly a good development, even though the treatment of migrant families writ large continues to be poor,” American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick tweetedAs a response to the news. Families can still be subjectMany face severe economic hardships due to the confusing and arbitrary court hearings and procedures.
This is not a good thing, however. The Department of Homeland Security will continue using GPS-enabled ankle bands to monitor migrants. Advocates of bracelets have long criticised their use, claiming they cause stigma and are not necessary to compel migrants in court.
In other areas, Biden is acting in close to total continuity with Trump. Title 42, a 1944 law on public health, continues to be invoked by Biden. This allows border agents to refuse asylum seekers without giving them the opportunity to present their case to a judge. Trump used the pandemic for an excuse to enforce the rule, which many believed was a pretext to continue his openly racist policies towards the southern border. Biden has also reimplemented Trump’s so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy, which denies asylum seekers the right to live in the United States while their case is pending. This practice, according to legal scholars, is illegal and against U.S. treaty obligations and international law.
“It took a couple years for the Trump administration to figure out the nuances of the various immigration programs,” Varghese said. Trump and his team were able to block almost every refugee or asylum assistance program within the executive branch by the time he left office. He and his top adviser, Stephen Miller, took an “all of the above” approach to limiting refugees and immigrants into the country. “That could be changing internal policies, it could be writing new regulations, it could be creating new policies and bureaucracies,” Varghese continued. “It could be by bankrupting [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services], it could be closing offices.”
The plights of refugees are no longer a hot topic in corporate media. But, in 2016, it was a major political topic. Then-candidate Donald Trump demonized refugees and asylum seekers constantly, especially Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war. Nearly all other Republican candidates followed his lead and promised limited refugee resettlement to America.
Trump and Miller attempted to ban people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the country in the administration’s first week in office. After initially rejecting the policy’s validity, the Supreme Court granted the ban its blessing after North Korea was added and Venezuela was added. The outrage over the “Muslim ban” was perhaps only matched by the administration’s family separation policy at the southern border.
Despite early promising signs, Trump’s dismantling of the refugee program has been criticized harshly by the Biden administration. Biden issued a February 2021 statement. Executive Order 14013The order called for the U.S. to “rebuild and expand, commensurate with global need.” Refugee Assistance Program to be “rebuilt and expanded, commensurate with global need.” The order also revoked the discriminatory restrictions Trump had imposed, and called for additional reporting from the responsible executive agencies to determine what other changes could be made to address the refugee backlog.
Then, somewhat inexplicably to outside observers, in April, Biden refused to raise the resettlement cap from Trump’s historically low 15,000. He reversedTwo weeks later, the administration changed course and succumbed to pressure from refugees advocates and progressives. His administration’s new policy to resettle 125,000 refugees by September signals, on paper at least, a renewed commitment to expanding the assistance program. It remains to see if the executive will actually allocate the resources, time and political effort necessary to achieve those goals.
With each passing year, the issue of refugee resettlement in America and migrant humanitarian issues throughout Europe and the rest the world will become more pressing. The collapse of the U.S.-backed government, Afghanistan, and ongoing conflicts throughout the Middle East, will ensure that migration levels remain at near-record highs in the future.
Climate change and migration from conflict areas are intimately linked. The United Nations predictsDue to rising temperatures, droughts, flooding, and conflict over resource, 200 million people could be forced out of their homes by 2050.
Biden has made it clear that the treatment of refugees has been a secondary priority to other liberal priorities. The administration has prioritized its COVID response and push for a bipartisan infrastructure bill, two of Biden’s few major legislative accomplishments to date, all while trying to balance demands for increased attention to voting rights, gun control, health care costs, and other headline issues. The record-breaking low number of refugees admitted made barely a dent in the mainstream media. The State Department did not comment on the matter.
Varghese and other refugee advocates would like to see Biden take a holistic approach to migrant rights and assistance, and to redouble his administration’s efforts. “What we’ve seen is basically a political calculation” from Biden to treat refugee issues as “just one factor among many,” Varghese said. “The Trump administration was so singularly focused on paring down humanitarian immigration programs” that Biden’s measured approach “is not enough to combat four years of a whole-of-government approach to tear down refugee resettlement.”