(Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
For perhaps the first time in four years, there seems to be good news on the horizon for America’s immigration system. President Joe Biden, who took office this afternoon, has pledged to repair and reform that system, including restoring the right to asylum and the resettlement of refugees. His plans, if enacted, would be a sharp break from the Trump administration’s harsh and sometimes abusive policies toward displaced persons.
But while a new administration offers new hope for refugees and asylum seekers, it does not offer any guarantees. Immigration is always a contentious issue, and passing legislation will be difficult with Congress closely divided. The new administration will likely be limited, at least initially, to what it can achieve through executive orders.
Meanwhile, fixing the asylum and refugee resettlement systems will be a long and difficult task. The Trump administration succeeded in bringing both programs to a virtual halt, which has damaged the government bodies that administer them as well as the private organizations that help support displaced persons who reach the United States. The Biden administration will need to change a raft of policies and help overworked immigration courts resume functioning; organizations like HIAS, along with our local affiliates, will have to rebuild our capacity to welcome and integrate new arrivals.
In the coming days, we will take a closer look at the work that needs to be done: how HIAS will help tens of thousands of asylum seekers claim their right to safety in the United States; how our local partners will prepare for refugees to once again join their communities; and what changes we want the Biden administration and the new Congress to enact. All of this will take time and immense effort, but we are confident better days are finally ahead.