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February 01, 2022

Upholding President Biden’s Asylum Commitments Progress Checklist: One Year After February 2021 Executive Order

One year ago, on February 2, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order directing steps to manage migration in North and Central America and to “restore and strengthen our own asylum system,” which the order noted “has been badly damaged by [Trump administration] policies enacted over the last 4 years that contravened our values and caused needless human suffering.” But one year later, many of the commitments made by President Biden have not yet been fulfilled – and the United States continues to flout both the Refugee Convention and the refugee laws enacted by Congress.

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The Biden administration took steps towards ending some Trump policies, such as beginning to wind-down the Remain in Mexico policy and withdrawing rulings that sought to deny asylum to survivors of gender-based persecution. But critical steps to end other Trump policies that block refugees from asylum remain, as Human Rights First explained in its recent assessment of the Biden administration’s first year in office. Shockingly, the Biden administration is still not upholding asylum law at U.S. ports of entry and elsewhere along the border, despite the President’s direction to promptly reinstate asylum processing. Instead, the Biden administration has defended, embraced, and implemented – for a full year now – the Trump administration’s illegal and inhumane policy of misusing public health authority under Title 42 of U.S. law to turn people seeking asylum away to places where they suffer kidnappings, torture, and other brutal violence. The Biden administration has also restarted the similarly horrific Remain in Mexico policy following a court order, choosing to expand its application to additional nationalities. Of grave concern, the administration has not yet taken key steps to firmly end the Trump entry, transit, and third-country asylum bans, despite the Executive Order’s directions for review.

Human Rights First continues to urge the Biden administration to restore compliance with U.S. asylum law and quickly fulfil President Biden’s directives in the Executive Order. These urgent steps should, as detailed in Human Rights First’s January 22 recommendations, include to: immediately comply with refugee law at the border and restart asylum at ports of entry; end the use and defense of President Trump’s Title 42 travesty; take all steps permissible to end the restarted and expanded Remain in Mexico policy; and firmly end President Trump’s entry, transit, and unsafe third-country bans, as well as other policies that deny refugees asylum and separate their families.  

Outlined below are President Biden’s directives on asylum included in the February 2021 Executive Order and the steps taken – and not yet taken – to fulfill his promises:

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