As a candidate, President Joe Biden pledged to “finish the work of building a fair and humane immigration system—restoring the progress Trump has cruelly undone and taking it further.” More specifically, he promised to “reassert America’s commitment to asylum seekers and refugees,” including by ensuring migrants’ dignity and “their legal right to seek asylum.”
An important step toward fulfilling those commitments is for the Biden / Harris administration to design and build a trauma-informed asylum system.
Exposure to traumatic events and experiences – in the countries from which refugees and asylum seekers flee or along their migration journey – is prevalent among those populations and has profound impacts, both directly on survivors and indirectly on those who engage with them in a professional capacity. In order to maximize the asylum system’s fairness, accuracy, and efficiency, and to minimize harm to those who access or work within it, the system must be structured to account for and appropriately address trauma.
Reversing the Trump administration’s myriad punitive and cruel asylum-related rules, policies, and practices is necessary to achieving that goal, but it is not sufficient. A system that is trauma-informed “realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”
As the Biden / Harris administration begins the hard work of transforming the nation’s immigration system broadly, and its humanitarian protection components specifically, CVT recommends prioritizing the following five actions. For more details, read CVT’s report here.