• Press Release

The White House Can and Should Do More to Welcome Refugees

September 20, 2021

President Biden To Sign Order Boosting Federal Spending On U.S. Products
Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Responding to President Biden’s reported proposed presidential determination to admit up to 125,000 refugees this fiscal year amid the horrific treatment of Haitian asylum-seekers at the border, Paul O’Brien, the executive director of Amnesty International USA said:

“Communities across the United States are ready to welcome their new neighbors, yet the White House continues to lag behind those eager to make this country their new home. At a time when thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their home to find safety, and Haitians are seeking safety on the southern border, the very least the United States can do is set a resettlement goal that meets the moment: anything but a robust commitment to humanitarian protections for refugees and asylum-seekers is a dismal failure.

“Local groups, faith-based institutions, universities, businesses and entire communities have shown greater leadership in welcoming refugees than any we have seen from the White House in recent years. The U.S. can and we must do better. Amnesty International USA is calling for the Biden Administration to admit at least 200,000 refugees this fiscal year and uphold its legal and moral commitment to allow people to seek asylum.”

Background and context

Tens of thousands of Afghans have arrived to the United States to seek safety, and tens of thousands more are still in Afghanistan and in third countries urgently in need of refugee protection. There are 82 million people forcibly displaced around the world, with 1.47M people in need of resettlement this coming year according to the UN Refugee Agency, yet the United States is resettling fewer refugees than ever before.

Most recently, the Biden administration has forcibly removed at least 300 Haitian asylum-seekers in Del Rio, Texas, back to Haiti by misusing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Title 42, a public health quarantine. The removals of Haitians is a policy seeped in anti-Black racism, exacerbating the likelihood for acute harm as the U.S. government summarily returns people to a country struggling with concurrent political, environmental, and economic disasters.

Every year, the President determines the number of refugees who should be resettled to the U.S. in the upcoming fiscal year, signaling the United States commitment to those fleeing violence and persecution. The Refugee Act of 1980 created the United States’ modern refugee program, which has resulted in over three million people resettled to a new home in the U.S. Through the Longer Table Initiative, Amnesty International USA and its supporters all across the country have been working to welcome refugees through community sponsorship. Actions by the Longer Table Initiative have included writing letters, signing up communities to sponsor a refugee or a refugee family to live locally, incorporating refugee stories into a book club, and more. Amnesty International USA members have passed over one hundred “I Welcome” Refugees resolutions declaring support for refugees in cities and local communities.

Reflecting its leadership in community-based resettlement, in June 2021, Amnesty International USA released “Recommendations for Private Sponsorship Design in an Expanded Community Sponsorship System.” In 2020 Amnesty International USA presented its policy recommendations to the Biden transition team on increasing U.S. refugee admissions. In 2019, Amnesty International USA released a report, The Mountain is in Front of Us and the Sea is Behind Us’: The Impact of US Policies on Refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, documenting how refugee families continue to be locked in an impossible limbo, stuck abroad and denied opportunities for resettlement, because of discriminatory U.S. policies as they try to seek safety with a new life and a permanent home.

This year, Amnesty International USA released a “Welcome Pledge” as Biden marked 100 days in office, to outline the policies that the President and his administration should embrace in order to build a country that is a place of welcome, refuge, respect, and dignity for all. The pledge—signed by many celebrity artists including George Takei, Angelique Kidjo and many more—urges the administration to welcome people as new neighbors, colleagues, classmates, friends, and families, and seeks to hold accountable the lawmakers who do not.

Read more:

By Maintaining Lowest Refugee Admissions in United States Resettlement History, President Biden Turns His Back on Refugees Around the World ( news, April 16, 2021)

Amnesty International USA Joins Welcome.US Initiative to Mobilize Support for Afghan Refugees in the United States (news, September 14, 2021)

President Biden’s Preferred Policy Option is Abandoning Afghans to Their Fates (August 24, 2021)

President Biden Fails to Give Reassurance to Afghans At Risk (news, August 20, 2021)

Leading Human Rights Organizations Call on President Biden to Evacuate at Risk Afghans (news, August 20, 2021)

Abandoning Afghanistan Is Simply Unacceptable (op-ed, September 20, 2021)

Contact: Mariya Parodi, [email protected]