Expert Pitch

Biden’s attention to immigration ‘root causes’ promising, but will take time

Cornell University
2-Feb-2021 1:30 PM EST, by Cornell University

The Biden administration’s executive orders on immigration announced this week will address Trump-era immigration policies including the controversial Migrant Protection Protocol, known as “Remain in Mexico,” and the family separation policy.

Ian Kysel, professor of law at Cornell University and co-director of the Asylum and Convention Against Torture Appellate Clinic, is a founder and director of the International Migrants Bill of Rights (IMBR) Initiative. Kysel, also a former ACLU attorney, says much more remains to be done to bring U.S. immigration policy in line with international migration principles.


Kysel says:

“Another round of action on immigration from the Biden-Harris Administration is welcome news for those concerned about the human rights of migrants. The planned executive orders will continue to tackle some of the biggest policy challenges facing the country on migration – problems drastically exacerbated by but not created by the Trump administration – such as when migrants must be allowed to enter the U.S., including to apply for asylum and other humanitarian protections, and how to safeguard the unity of migrant families and the rights of child migrants.

“But bringing the U.S. in sync with the demands of migrants’ basic human rights and dignity will require more from the White House and executive branch – and, eventually, from Congress, too.

“Will investment in addressing the underlying causes of migration go beyond paying regional governments to militarize borders farther south and ‘stem the flow’? Will the new and humane asylum system remain out of step with international refugee law, as it has been for decades, and continue to rely on a draconian detention regime as a deterrent (however ineffective)? Will the commitment to family reunification broaden to include the hundreds of thousands of migrant families ripped apart by decades of escalating interior enforcement? Time will tell – and that time is lived differently by the asylum-seeker camped out in dangerous conditions on the southern border, the immigrant family waiting in a detention center in the midst of the pandemic, and the deported migrant tens of thousands of miles from their loved ones in the U.S.” 


Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School and co-author of a leading 21-volume immigration law series, says the initiatives are a promising first step.


Yale-Loehr says:

“President Biden will announce executive actions today ordering the review and potential reversal of the Trump administration’s deterrent policies along the U.S.- Mexico border. The directives apparently will also create a homeland security task force to reunite families separated by President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ border crackdown.

“Some immigration advocates may complain that the announcement doesn’t go far enough, and that the Biden administration should immediately reverse the Trump administration’s ‘remain in Mexico’ policy for potential asylum seekers. However, migration from Central America is complex, and can’t be revised in a day. Addressing the root causes of migration takes time. This is a promising first step.”

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