Beyond the 2022 U.S. Midterm Reviews: IRC Reflects on Issues for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
New York, NY, November 8, 2022 — Over the past year, the world has seen humanitarian resettlement and asylum needs reach new heights, particularly given the crises in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela and other countries. With over 100 million displaced people worldwide, a strong US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and a fair and humane asylum system are essential. As the midterm elections in the United States draw to a close, America’s choice will have critical consequences for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing the damage and coming to the United States.
- Providing certainty to Afghan evacuees: Humanitarian parole enabled the Biden administration to quickly process Afghans, Ukrainians, and now Venezuelans fleeing conflict, persecution, and economic collapse. Yet parole only allows these vulnerable populations to stay in the United States for up to two years and does not pave the way for permanent residency or eventual citizenship. The Afghan Adjustment Lawa bipartisan bill introduced in Congress can address this legal uncertainty for Afghans. New IRC data revealed that Afghans in the United States could bring in $1.4 billion in income and nearly $200 million in taxes in their first year of employment alone, proving that when countries implement refugee policies, there are often social and economic benefits. There was also broad support for welcoming Afghans to America, with thirty-seven bipartisan governors indicating their approval for the reception and resettlement of Afghans in their States through budget and resource support and legislation. It is time for Congress to act.
- Adopt humane and fair border policies: Continuous use and expansion of title 42 only further undermines the integrity of the US asylum system by depriving asylum seekers of their legal right to seek safety in the United States. This harmful US policy violates international and domestic law under the guise of a public health measure to protect Americans from COVID-19. With nearly all other pandemic restrictions removed nationwide, President Biden declaring the pandemic “over”, and the COVID-19 testing protocols in place for migrants, there is absolutely no justification for this policy which has led to over 2 million deportations of asylum seekers. Worse, this policy puts people at risk by sending them back to dangers similar or worse to those from which many have tried to flee. A new study revealed that a 10% reduction in the number of asylum seekers results in an overall loss to the US economy of more than $8.9 billion – and to federal, state and local governments of more than 1.5 billion dollars – over five years. The United States can and must establish a safe, orderly, and humane process for receiving asylum seekers to end the exploitation of those in desperate need of safety. The IRC calls on the Biden administration and Congress to stand up for the protection of all asylum seekers.
- Continue to welcome and support the integration of refugees into local communities: States lay the groundwork ensuring that refugees are welcomed, taking essential steps to help refugees transition to their new lives in the United States. States used their budgets investing in programs that support refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable people – with many states investing in the creation of New Americans Offices. They recognized the need and value of linguistic accessibility in schools and through state agencies. In addition, States have conscientiously taken review of their needs to access in-state tuition and professional reskilling to determine if and how refugees and other immigrants face particular barriers. The results of these efforts could not be clearer. Across the country, refugees fill critical labor shortages,revitalize urban centersand preservation declining rural communities. These efforts must continue and more states must adopt them. Refugees are essential and valuable members of our communities and States must show this.
JC Hendrickson, Senior Director of Resettlement, Asylum and Integration Policy and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee, said:
“America has a long tradition of bipartisan support for refugees. Protecting children and vulnerable adults whose lives have been shattered by conflict and disaster is central to American values. Still, American leadership is needed, especially with global displacement reaching unprecedented heights.
“Congress should work with the Biden administration on systematic solutions that create humane and fair asylum policies to help those fleeing conflict and persecution, regardless of their country of origin.
“Furthermore, Congress must pass the Afghan Adjustment Act. More than 78,000 Afghans are now our neighbours, and they deserve the certainty that this bill would bring them. Refugees and asylum seekers have made the United States stronger and better for generations, and current and incoming American leaders must remain true to these American values.