How (And Why) to Fix the U.S. Asylum and Refugee Systems


After surviving four years of attacks by the Trump administration, America’s asylum and refugee-resettlement systems now have a chance to rebuild. But what work needs to be done — and why?

León Rodríguez, a HIAS board member, knows the answers. He served as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2013 to 2017, and his own family resettled as refugees in the United States.

In a recent conversation with Melanie Nezer, HIAS’ senior vice president of public affairs, Rodríguez explained how the Biden administration should go about fixing the damage to the U.S. asylum and refugee systems. That will mean everything from changing harmful Trump-era rules and policies to staffing up government agencies and making sure organizations like HIAS have the capacity to help new arrivals. “I’m confident it can be done,” Rodríguez said, “but what should not be minimized is both the financial and human investment that’s going to need to be made.”

Those investments, he stressed, are critical to the future of the United States. Welcoming refugees and asylum seekers is important not just for American moral leadership but also for its economic and social growth. “Our success as a country is precisely because we have taken the talent and energy of the whole world and invited it here,” he said.

You can watch the entire conversation above.

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