Biden Administration Hands Asylum Recommendation Power to Advocacy Groups

Posted: Jun 04, 2021 3:05 PM
Biden Administration Hands Asylum Recommendation Power to Advocacy Groups

Source: AP Photo/Gregory Bull

According to a new report released by the Associated Press on Friday, the Biden administration has "quietly" chosen a handful of what it describes as "humanitarian groups" to recommend which asylum seekers in Mexico should be granted safe haven in the United States. 

Most seeking refuge in the United States are "rapidly expelled from the country" due to restrictions implemented to mitigate the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Now, the United States is seeking to accept around 250 asylum seekers per day based on the guidance of six groups that were chosen by the Biden administration on the recommendation of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ office in Mexico, according to the AP:

The groups have not been publicly identified except for the International Rescue Committee, a global relief organization. The others are London-based Save the Children; two U.S.-based organizations, HIAS and Kids in Need of Defense; and two Mexico-based organizations, Asylum Access and the Institute for Women in Migration, according to two people with direct knowledge who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended for public release.

In a move that is typical of the Biden administration thus far, the criteria these UN-referred groups will use to determine who is most vulnerable and therefore most deserving of asylum has not been made public. 

The International Rescue Committee, one of the groups given recommendation power by the Biden administration, told the AP it plans to put forward 600 migrants for asylum in the U.S. each month and "special consideration is being given to people who have been in Mexico a long time, are in need of acute medical attention or who have disabilities, are members of the LGBTQ community or are non-Spanish speakers."

The Department of Homeland Security "described its work with the groups as fluid and said it hasn’t publicly identified them to avoid giving them exposure" according to a statement reported by the AP, over concerns that "going public may cause their offices in Mexico to be mobbed by asylum-seekers, overwhelming their tiny staffs and exposing them to potential threats and physical attacks from extortionists and other criminals."

Now, thanks to the AP report, the groups' identities are public.

If these organizations are unable or unprepared to handle the process without becoming overwhelmed or falling victim to criminal enterprises that flourish along the border—human traffickers, drug smugglers, and coyotes to name a few—then why has the Biden administration placed its trust in their recommendations?

The Associated Press briefly highlighted concerns over the small group of organizations—some of which are based in other countries—being handed such power by the Biden administration without clear criteria:

Critics of the new selection processes say too much power is vested in a small number of organizations and that the effort is shrouded in secrecy without a clear explanation of how the groups were chosen. Critics also say there are no assurances that the most vulnerable or deserving migrants will be chosen to seek asylum. 

While U.S. officials maintain their power to make the final decision on who gets asylum, the Biden administration has handed significant control over who gets to the front of the line to a select few organizations that amount to little more than advocacy groups that are able to prioritize people based on whatever secret criteria they choose.