News & Resources

Press Release: New Executive Actions Aim To Strengthen Asylum Protections, Reunite Families


February 2, 2021


Henrike Dessaules



(New York, NY) – Today, President Biden signed several executive orders to address the reunification of separated families, improve protection for asylum seekers and other forced migrants in the Western Hemisphere, and refortify access to asylum in the United States. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) welcomes the orders, which intend to reverse many of the Trump Administration’s most xenophobic policies, and calls on the Biden Administration to expand its efforts to ensure that the U.S. immigration system aligns with the Administration’s humanitarian values.

Among the orders is a call to review the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) that have forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers and their children to languish in Mexico under precarious conditions while they wait years for their turn to have their asylum claims heard by U.S. immigration Courts. While IRAP welcomes the announcement that the Administration will review this discriminatory and unlawful policy, we bemoan that the order does not provide prompt relief to the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who remain in danger in Mexico. IRAP urges the Administration to immediately take action to protect this community and their rights and physical safety, including by terminating MPP.     

IRAP commends the Biden Administration for considering reinstating the Central American Minors (CAM) program, which would allow children from Central America to reunite with family members lawfully present in the United States. The Trump Administration discontinued the CAM program in 2017 and IRAP successfully challenged the termination in our lawsuit S.A. v. Trump, which achieved a historic settlement, allowing up to 2,700 Central American children to be reunited with their families already here. 

“We applaud the Biden Administration making good on their campaign promises to unwind some of the terrible immigration policies of the Trump Administration and approach forced migration in a more humane and sensible way,” said IRAP’s U.S. Legal Director, Carmen Maria Rey. “At the same time, we must ensure that the agencies tasked with reviewing the anti-refugee and anti-asylum policies of the previous Administration, do so promptly and in faithful accordance with the principles of humanity, reconciliation, and welcoming laid out in today’s executive actions.”

The new orders also address the tragedy of families that have been separated by the Trump Administration by creating a task force dedicated to reuniting them, as well as instruct a review of the discriminatory public charge rule, a financial hurdle for many families seeking reunification in the United States. 

IRAP urges all the relevant agencies to take immediate action pursuant to this executive order and looks forward to further executive actions on the refugee resettlement program.