RCUSA responds to news of deferred removal for Hong Kongers

Washington, DC — On August 5, the Biden Administration directed the Department of Homeland security to defer for 18 months the removal of Hong Kong residents currently in the US. This decision comes in response to a year of pro-democracy crackdowns by the Chinese government in Hong Kong following the passage of the “Safeguarding National Security” law. Many pro-democracy Hong Kong residents could face imminent persecution should they be returned to Hong Kong, and Refugee Council USA applauds the administration’s action in offering this initial step toward protection. However, RCUSA calls on the Administration to offer more permanent protection solutions to those Hong Kong residents in the US, and asks that they include more robust protections for individuals from Hong Kong that reside outside our borders.

“As a country which prides itself on its democratic institutions, it is our ethical responsibility to offer protection to those who face threats and persecution for their struggles in defense of democracy,” said John Slocum, Interim Executive Director, Refugee Council USA.

“In light of the increasingly violent repression of the people of Hong Kong, we are grateful for the Biden Administration’s decision to offer a temporary safe haven to those residents of Hong Kong already in the United States,” said Sunil Varghese, Policy Director, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). “But we hope this is just the first step of a robust plan to provide permanent refugee protection to the people of Hong Kong and others in the region who are facing persecution as they fight for their fundamental rights.”

Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, CEO & President, Boat People SOS, stated: “In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Hong Kong served as a temporary refuge for hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fleeing communist persecution in Vietnam on flimsy boats. Many of these former boat people are now US citizens. As an organization of former Vietnamese boat people, we welcome the Biden-Harris Administration’s decision to extend temporary ‘safe haven’ to Hong Kong residents in the United States. That is a good start, but we need to ensure that they will not be returned to almost certain persecution under the Chinese communist regime.”

“Basic freedoms in Hong Kong are rapidly disappearing, so we applaud the Biden administration’s announcement this week to provide temporary safety for Hong Kongers already in the United States,” said Naomi Steinberg, Vice President, Policy and Advocacy, HIAS. “ However, as important as this first step is, the US must do more and commit to offering permanent protection through the US refugee resettlement program and the US asylum system to people who are forced to flee from Hong Kong in search of safety and political freedom.”

“For those in the United States who call Hong Kong home, watching the continued attacks on democratic institutions and basic freedoms has been a living nightmare. After each crackdown by the government of People’s Republic of China, they are left to wonder what will happen to them if forced to return. By providing temporary safety to Hong Kong residents currently in the United States, however, President Biden has taken an important and compassionate step,” Erol Kekic, Senior Vice President Immigration and Refugee Program, Church World Service (CWS). “Now, his administration must think of a more permanent solution. Fortunately, that solution already exists in the form of the US refugee resettlement program and asylum system; access simply needs to be extended to this vulnerable group.”

RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome. Individual RCUSA members do not all address all refugee-related issues, nor do all individual members approach all refugee-related issues identically.

Media Contact: Sarah Seniuk, sseniuk@rcusa.org