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U.S. Election 2020

Three ways candidates in the U.S. elections can stand with refugees

In the coming weeks, the Democratic and Republican political parties in the United States will formally decide who they’ll be nominating to run the race for the presidency as the 2020 election cycle intensifies.

The International Rescue Committee is calling on all candidates running for public office in the U.S. to address three key issues that affect millions of lives both in the U.S. and around the globe.

Rebuilding refugee resettlement in the U.S.

For decades, political leaders of both parties have supported refugee resettlement programmes in the U.S. They’ve understood that resettling refugees not only saves lives - but also benefits the country.

In the U.S., refugees are performing essential services during the pandemic, even as their communities are disproportionately impacted by the virus. Over 15 percent of refugees work in the healthcare industry, and many others hold essential roles in food processing, grocery stores, and restaurants. 

Jonathan Amissa, a refugee from Cameroon owns a medical transportation business in Boise, Idaho

Jonathan Amissa, a refugee from Cameroon who owns a medical transportation business in Boise, Idaho, told the IRC: “I want the world to know that even with the pain and the struggle, and with the obstacles we’ve been through, we can still be part of a community that welcomes us. We are refugees but we also have potential and goals.”

Photo: Angie Smith/IRC

Despite the overwhelming evidence that refugees enrich their communities, the Trump administration reduced the cap on refugee resettlement to just 18,000 people in 2020, the lowest in the history of the modern resettlement programme.

We’re asking all candidates running for office to call for the rebuilding of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Programme and for the country to commit to welcoming at least 95,000 refugees annually.

Protecting the rights of asylum seekers 

People request asylum because they are fleeing violence or persecution in their home countries.They have a legal right to do so. Today, many asylum seekers at the U.S. border are traveling to escape violence in northern Central America: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Gang violence is rampant in the region. 

Policies have forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico to make their case. In March, the U.S. Administration moved to turn away all non-citizens at the border—with no opportunity to request asylum. 

Lincy Sopall, a transgender woman and asylee living in the U.S. after enduring abuse in Honduras.

"Refugees and asylum seekers are a big group of people with dreams and hopes and one goal," says Lincy Sopall, a transgender woman and asylee living in the U.S. after enduring abuse in Honduras. "We come with the goal of helping the country that opens its doors to us and our families."

Photo: Andrew Oberstadt/IRC

Blocking asylum seekers from entering the U.S. sends people back into danger and is in violation of domestic and international laws, even in these unprecedented times. 

U.S. policy decisions during the pandemic should be informed by public health best practices. Current asylum policies do not pass that test. Instead, they put asylum seekers in additional danger while doing nothing to make the U.S. safer.

We’re asking all candidates running for office to uphold asylum protections in accordance with domestic and international law and public health guidance. Candidates should also support Central American countries to reduce the violence that is driving people from their homes, to respond to their needs, and to eventually make life safe and livable in northern Central America.

Responding to COVID-19 globally

Countries in crisis with weak health systems need rapid international assistance, including supplies for detecting, preventing and treating the coronavirus.

Yasmin, a a community volunteer and Rohingya refugee living in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh.

"The camp is a very crowded place and there isn’t enough soap,” says Yasmin, a a community volunteer and Rohingya refugee living in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. “There’s no electricity, so we can’t take baths properly. We’re in a very risky situation, living like chickens in a cage. It’s very tense—but we have to control our fear."

Photo: Maruf Hasan/IRC

The U.S. must work with the international community to strengthen the global health pandemic response, working collaboratively to address the immediate and longer-term consequences of COVID-19.

We’re asking all candidates running for office to call for an improvement in the U.S. response to COVID-19 in countries facing crises. We are asking them to embrace  fast, sustainable and flexible financing to frontline humanitarian responders.