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International Organization for Migration Remarks

Release Date: November 29, 2021

We in the United States are in a challenging period of response, restoration, and rebuilding. 

We are responding to a historically high number of migrants reaching our southern land border, not from any single, discrete point of origin, but from varied nations suffering a diverse collection of hardships.

We are restoring the humanity of our efforts to address the needs and rights of migrants, including the reunification of families purposefully and cruelly separated to deter other families from seeking refuge in our country.

We are rebuilding refugee and asylum programs dismantled by the prior administration.

We are doing all of this at an especially challenging time, one in which we – all of us – struggle to vanquish the pandemic that has cost so many lives and upended so many aspects of the daily life we once considered customary.

Our efforts in the United States would have gravely less chance of success and cause for hope were it not for the extraordinary, unwavering, and unrelenting commitment, capacity, and work of the International Organization for Migration.  We are thankful to Director General Vitorino and his team for their partnership in seeking to achieve our goals of providing humanitarian relief to those seeking refuge and respecting the dignity of each individual at every step of their journey.

Thank you for inviting me to join this 112th Council session today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has so powerfully evidenced the reality that irregular migration, however regionalized it might appear to be, is a global phenomenon that cannot be met by silos of effort.  It requires all of us to work together, to devise solutions that respect each nation’s sovereignty and that also recognize matters of common interest and concern.  IOM is one of the organizations that links us all together.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made and followed a series of policy and programmatic changes in our response to the movement of people from different nations.  We imposed travel restrictions, increasingly designed to focus on a traveler-specific risk assessment.  We have used technology to develop and support physically distanced immigration processing.  We have collaborated with state and local health authorities and community-based organizations to implement testing, vaccination, and isolation regimes.  

In each of these areas, our innovations have achieved important successes.  Yet we also have discovered areas of much-needed improvement.  More fundamentally, the situation has revealed how critical it is to have a pre-established architecture that intertwines the policies and processes of public health emergencies and of the mobility and migration of people.

Necessity has borne rapid innovation.  We need to maintain the practices and continue to leverage and enhance the technology utilized in the time of the pandemic that create greater efficiency and effectiveness in our migration system.  

This speaks to, for example, the importance of flexibility in the government’s ability to continue immigration processing; the need to maintain open labor migration pathways and prevent the blockage of supply chains because of border closures or the shortage of workers; and the vitality of community health partnerships to provide a holistic response.

We must formalize the relationship between our immigration and our public health authorities.  We can better integrate our public health screening in our travel and migration processes.  We can and should build on IOM’s progress by ensuring that all states can implement the standards and lessons learned over the past two years.  

There is the opportunity now to consider what we all have experienced and what core principles can be developed to guide Member actions.  The absence of commonly understood parameters for assessing risk, managing essential exemptions, and instituting protocols for travel have led to asymmetries of travel and uncertainty and costs for governments, travelers, migrants, and the private sector.

Let us consider IOM’s role in the daily monitoring of mobility restrictions and their impact around the world, tracking rules at thousands of points of entry.  We could have an invaluable resource for many partners within the United Nations system, for government and private sector actors trying to assess the overall landscape.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing global challenges have fundamentally changed how our nations interact, how our people move, and how our economies function.  We are at a critically important time when we must examine and apply the lessons learned from the past two years and cooperate, through this forum, to develop new paradigms that will better equip us for generations to come.  

Through our work together, and under the auspices of IOM, we can more ably empower ourselves to achieve our humanitarian objectives.  Thank you very much.

Last Updated: 02/01/2022
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