Biden pledges to raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 if elected president
By Geeta Goindi
May 19, 2020 – Expressing profound concern about the “intense persecution” of Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan, former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has urged the US State Department to grant them emergency refugee protection, and pledged to safeguard the minority communities if elected president in November.
“With the recent uptick in violence in Afghanistan, including a horrifying attack this week on a hospital maternity ward, I want to express my concern about the situation facing Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan including the terrorist attack on Sikhs at the Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in Kabul in March”, he said in a statement.
On March 25, heavily-armed gunmen stormed into the Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib gurdwara in the Shor Bazar area and gunned down some 25 Sikh worshippers including three-year-old Tanya Kaur.
“The recent attack against Afghanistan’s Sikh community demonstrates once again the dangerous conditions for religious minorities”, Biden said. “I stand with the Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan seeking safety for their families and the freedom to practice their faiths and urge the Department of State to consider the request for emergency refugee protection”.
On his part, he vowed, “If I am elected president, my administration will renew our commitment to refugees” which includes raising “the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000″ and continuing to increase it as the need arises.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee who has been campaigning from his home in Delaware as he abides by his states’s stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pointed out that “Sikhs and Hindus are not outsiders living in Afghanistan. They are Afghan, and a vital part of the country’s heritage. The intense persecution these communities have faced in recent decades is an unspeakable tragedy”, he said recalling how the Taliban in the mid 1990s ordered Sikhs and Hindus to wear yellow armbands so they could be easily distinguished from the Muslim majority.
In 2018, a suicide bomber killed more than a dozen Sikhs and Hindus in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Since the 1978 conflict, both minority groups have found themselves increasingly targeted and their population has dwindled from about 250,000 to less than a thousand. Those that remain in the war-torn country face religious persecution, institutional and cultural discrimination. The clarion call has grown louder for resettling these minorities in other nations like India, America and Canada.
As a six-term senator (1973-2009), Biden co-sponsored the legislation creating America’s refugee program. In the statement, he blasted the Trump administration for decimating America’s refugee policy and ending the country’s role as the world’s leader in welcoming people fleeing violence and persecution, and that too at a time when refugee numbers and needs are at the highest levels since World War II.
The Trump administration’s asylum policies have severely restricted the number of migrants seeking humanitarian refuge in the United States. Last year, the State Department announced it was slashing the number of refugees allowed into the US from 30,000, already a historic low, to 18,000 so it could address the ongoing crisis at the southern border. This number is a fraction of the 85,000 cap proposed by former president Barack Obama in 2016.
Biden took another swipe at the Trump administration for its “purported commitment to religious freedom” while using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to block refugees and asylees from entering the US. The State Department has indefinitely suspended refugee admissions and the federal government has cut off funding for those who managed to arrive before the pandemic.
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