The Biden administration must address restrain to the US asylum system that worsened under Trump – refugee groups are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to reverse some of Donald Trump’s most restrictive immigration policies, including historic-low admission quotas for asylum seekers, when he takes office in January.
Rebuilding the US refugee programme may take time, said Becca Heller, executive director of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) advocacy group, but it is critical for thousands of asylum seekers waiting for their claims to be heard.
“The refugee program may take some time to rebuild, but the thousands of refugees who have already been waiting in limbo for years don’t have any more time,” Heller told Al Jazeera in an emailed statement.
The US Refugee Admissions Program was severely limited under the Trump administration, which has enacted increasingly restrictive refugee admission quotas and slashed refugee acceptance by more than 80 percent from the last year of former President Barack Obama’s administration.
IRAP released recommendations on Friday for the incoming Biden administration to address refugee and asylum seeker admissions into the country – and “rebuild” that federal admissions programme.
Biden has signaled his openness to expand refugee admissions. He promised to set a refugee admissions target of 125,000 a year and work with Congress to establish a minimum admissions number of at least 95,000 refugees annually in June, on World Refugee Day, in line with historical averages.
This would be a sharp change from Trump’s measures: the Republican president’s final presidential determination on refugee admissions to the US set the cap at 15,000, the lowest since the Refugee Act of 1980 was enacted.
Biden also reportedly plans on restoring DACA, the Obama-era programme that protects from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, and end the so-called “Muslim Ban” that now bars travellers from 13 countries, not all of which have a Muslim majority.
The incoming Biden administration is also expected to put in place a 100-day freeze on deportations until updated guidance is issued.