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John Oliver Slams Biden’s Delay in Reversing Trump’s Destructive Refugee Policies: “Pick Up a F***ing Pen and Do the Right Thing”

John Oliver discusses refugees.

Joe Biden has been facing accusations since he became president that his friendly, welcoming demeanor has been leading to a surge in immigrants and asylum seekers crossing into the United States. While there has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants crossing the border, the reasons are much more complex than Biden’s critics make them seem, starting with how ludicrous it is to suggest that Biden’s jovial personality would be the cause.

As a new report from Politico lays out, the biggest reason for the increase in unauthorized border crossings—according to experts and to the migrants themselves—isn’t that Biden’s too nice, it’s that he has been dragging his feet in reversing Donald Trump’s restrictive and racist refugee policies as he promised he would.

“The issue isn’t Biden extending a hand; it’s that he hasn’t figured out what he wants to do — and has kept the legal pathway closed in the meantime,” writes Jack Herrera, who spoke with asylum seekers stuck in Tijuana. And they all expressed the same desperate desire for answers.

“Despite promising a new approach, Biden has left the effective asylum ban in place, with few exceptions,” Herrera writes. “Realizing they have no prospect for legal entry into the U.S. anytime soon, many migrants like the ones here, stuck in Tijuana without a safe home to return to, are making the painful decision to try to cross the border outside the proper channels.”

John Oliver discussed this issue in a segment during the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, saying, “The U.S, used to be a world leader in how many refugees we accepted. But this fucking guy [meaning Trump] not only slashed the admissions low down to a historic annual low of 15,000, he also added discriminatory eligibility categories that have blocked many Muslim and African refugees from coming to the U.S.”

During Biden’s presidential campaign, part of his platform was a promise to reverse those policies. In February, he laid out a plan to raise the cap on admissions to 62,500 refugees and then to raise the cap again next year.

But he still hasn’t actually signed the presidential determination that would put that plan into action. And in the two months since he made that announcement, the White House has repeatedly dismissed questions about the delay.

Oliver notes that of the approximately 115,000 refugees currently in various stages of resettlement, more than 35,000 have already been approved to enter the United States but still aren’t being allowed into the country. And those delays have a massive impact on these people’s lives.

“Remember, these are vulnerable people who may have surrendered their belongings or homes in anticipation of leaving the country or who are having to wait in camps,” Oliver said. “Or they might see their required security and health checks expire, only to have to start the entire process all over again.”

He also told the story of a Congolese woman who was approved to enter the country, but she’s pregnant and has been waiting so long that she’s now in her third trimester and isn’t allowed to fly. And when she gives birth, the baby will have to go through its own approval process, which can take months.

I believe that Biden’s “nice guy” persona is genuine. I believe he does want to reverse Trump’s strict and discriminatory policies, both to help those stuck in these refugee camps and to improve the U.S.’s reputation as a whole. But as Oliver says, “He just needs to sign a piece of paper.” He doesn’t even need to debate with Republicans, he just needs to do it.

“And for a guy who clearly wanted to be the person who ‘restored the soul’ of America,” Oliver says, “it’s past time for him to look deep into his own, pick up a fucking pen, and do the right thing.”

(image: HBO)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.