Immigration advocates welcome Biden’s expansion of refugee admissions

Immigration advocate Murad Awawdeh.
REUTERS/Carlo Allegri, file

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 groups in New York State, has welcomed President Joseph Biden’s expansion of refugee admissions, noting that it is “a first step in undoing Trump’s legacy.”

“We applaud President Biden for taking a crucial first step in reversing his predecessor’s ugly and counterproductive gutting of America’s refugee system,” said Murad Awawdeh and Rovika Rajkishun, NYIC’s interim co-executive directors, on Thursday.

“Across the state and, especially, in Western, Central New York, the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and Long Island, we have seen refugees inject new life into cities and counties that have struggled with an economic downturn for decades,” they added.

“But, for four years, Trump’s single-minded and racist attacks on immigrants blinded him to both the social, cultural, and economic benefits of refugees and our humanitarian obligations to those seeking safety from violence and persecution,” Awawdeh continued.

“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a long project to renew America’s moral standing and its reputation as a welcoming nation for all,” they added.

Last Thursday, President Biden announced that the US will raise the cap on refugee admissions to 125,000 in 2021.

The proposal is a stark departure from Trump’s policies, which drastically cut admissions from 110,000 in 2016 to 15,000 in the current fiscal year.

On Saturday, the State Department also announced that it was suspending and initiating the process to terminate the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as “the first concrete steps on the path to greater partnership and collaboration in the region laid out by President Biden.”

“The termination of these Agreements is effective after the notice period stipulated in each of the Agreements, but their suspension is immediate,” said US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken in a statement.

He noted that Biden, in the Feb. 2 Executive Order — aimed at creating a comprehensive regional framework to address the causes of migration, manage migration throughout North and Central America, and provide safe and orderly processing of asylum seekers at the US border – “set an ambitious course to work with our partners — governments, international and non-governmental organization partners, civil society and the private sector — to build more resilient societies across the region.

“In line with the President’s vision, we have notified the Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that the United States is taking this action as efforts to establish a cooperative, mutually respectful approach to managing migration across the region begin,” Blinken added.

He said transfers under the US-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement had been paused since mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19, and the Agreements with El Salvador and Honduras were never implemented.

In the meantime, two immigration advocacy groups in the United States have called on Biden to intervene immediately in stopping what they described as the mass deportation of Haitians.

NYIC and the Brooklyn-based Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees said on Thursday that, since Feb.1, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has deported roughly 300 Haitians.

The group said “another shameful 1800 deportations” are expected in the next two weeks.

“ICE’s aggressive approach is in line with the Trump-era policy of targeting Black migrants,” said the groups in a statement, demanding “the immediate intervention from the Biden White House.”

“It’s no surprise that ICE kicked off Black History Month by terrorizing Black immigrants and tearing apart their families,” said Awawdeh and Rajkishun.

“After all, this is the same agency that recklessly opened fire on a Brooklyn street and snatched up immigrant New Yorkers outside courthouses schools and off the street,” they added. “Taking their cue from Trump’s contempt for Black and immigrant communities, this week’s actions prove that ICE is thumbing its nose at President Biden’s executive orders and directives by continuing its mass deportation agenda.

“But the Trump-era is over, and the Biden administration must rein in this rogue agency,” Awawdeh and Rajkishun continued. “As the organization representing the state with one of the oldest and largest Haitian communities in the country, the New York Immigration Coalition demands that President Biden immediately end these deportation flights to keep New York families together, especially during a public health crisis.”

Ninaj Raoul, executive director, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, said: “We at Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees are outraged by the discriminatory deportations that continue to be carried out by ICE amid a global pandemic, a serious political crisis in Haiti, and a surge in kidnapping terrorism by government-backed gangs.

“In the same week that President Biden signed an executive order to launch a task force to reunite families separated by the Trump administration, this White House is deporting Haitians, including children and infants in record numbers,” she said. “This is a cruel contradiction that will further separate many families.

“It is simply careless and inhumane to deport individuals to Haiti, knowingly putting innocent people who have migrated to survive in harm’s way,” Raoul added. “These deportations are wrongheaded, and current plans to deport 1800 more Haitians to Haiti in the next two weeks must be stopped now.”

The reported mass deportation comes as a major Haitian immigration advocacy group in Miami in mid-December wholeheartedly welcomed the United States’ extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals from Haiti until Oct. 4, 2021.

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