Biden on track to break Trump record for fewest resettled refugees
Biden administration on track to resettle smallest number of refugees in program history despite big promises it would revamp a decimated system under the old one President TrumpDonald Trump No quick fix for the southern border crisis Who’s the boss? Pelosi’s legacy sealed after bowing to ‘squad’ Biden on track to break Trump record for fewest resettled refugees MORE.
The administration had resettled 7,637 refugees by the end of August – a figure according to experts makes it nearly impossible to reach the low of 11,814 under the Trump administration by the end of the fiscal year. finished Friday.
Final figures are expected in the coming days, but advocates say both COVID-19 and a series of missteps from President BidenJoe BidenTop GOP Senator: “Far-Left Democrats Drive The Bus And Joe Biden Is Right Here For The Ride” Political Study Should Give Democrats Shock Fauci Says It’s A “False Story” To Think Vaccine COVID-19 not needed if Merck drug approved PLUS leads to just a trickle of refugees from a White House that, during the campaign, pledged to resettle up to 125,000 people per year through the US refugee admissions program.
“It is quite disappointing how few refugees have been resettled this year. I don’t think it was inevitable. I think it was the result of political choices and what to prioritize, ”said Sunil Varghese of the International Refugee Assistance Project at The Hill, stressing that the coronavirus was not the only factor.
“While we knew there would be fewer resettled refugees this year than perhaps in previous years, it is surprising how few have been resettled.
Preliminary government figures reviewed by The Hill show that the Biden administration was pushing to speed up treatment in September, but experts say that even though the White House is narrowly ahead of its predecessor, it still has not responded to requests. expectations she set at the start of Biden’s presidency. .
Even though the administration manages to resettle more in this fiscal year than the last year of the Trump administration, it’s still only a fraction of the overall target and barely higher than the highest point. bottom ever recorded, ”said Jorge Loweree, director of policy for the US Immigration Council.
The low numbers of a program put in place in its modern form in 1980 to increase the number of resettled refugees in the United States take on new urgency as resettlement agencies have been asked to prepare for 95,000 Afghan refugees after the American evacuation.
Biden’s path to raising the refugee ceiling has been complicated.
In February, he announced he would raise the cap to 62,500 for that fiscal year – as part of a commitment to reach 125,000 in his first year in office.
But he slowed down the presidential resolve that officially set the new number for the program, leaving refugees in limbo with a number of health and safety checks that were likely to expire shortly after their March flights.
“Because it took until April, all the flights that had been booked had to be canceled and the security checks started to expire and it was really very frustrating. For some of these people the accommodation had been Prepared, families were thrilled to be reunited with loved ones – it was a truly difficult time, ”said Meredith Owen, director of policy and advocacy for Church World Service, a coalition of Christian denominations helping resettle refugees.
But when Biden finally signed the decision in April, he backtracked significantly, setting the refugee ceiling at 15,000, the same all-time low used under Trump, infuriating both supporters and Democrats in Congress.
“Everyone did a ‘What the f —‘ collective,” Owen said.
The move came as Republicans hammered Biden over an influx of migrants to the border.
“It is clear at this point that much of what has happened or has not happened in immigration is driven by border policy. This narrative of crisis has forced the administration to direct resources from other places to the southern border, and this is in part a reflection of that, ”Loweree said.
The turnaround was a boost for resettlement agencies that contract with the government and set out to rehire staff to rebuild a system that had atrophied under the Trump administration.
“Raising the figure earlier would have meant an injection of resources that were especially needed by local resettlement agencies hanging by a thread,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
“This is where I think defense is important because it not only sends a signal, but it sends resources.”
Biden informed Congress of his recommendation to set the refugee cap at 125,000 for the next fiscal year, although he has yet to sign the presidential ruling making it official.
But the report appears to express internal doubt about the government’s ability to meet that goal, writing to Congress that the State Department would provide funding to 65,000 refugees.
“These funding levels will be reassessed and increased as the year progresses and it becomes clearer how much progress can be made against the target,” the White House wrote.
Owen said she was pressuring the White House to raise the target to 200,000 for next year given the expected influx of Afghan refugees – a feature which advocates say even makes the figure 125 000 essential.
“I think the government can take a lot of action if it wants to and so I think the number of 125,000 is achievable if the administration makes it a priority,” Varghese said, noting that the administration has had close one year to prepare for the restoration. the refugee system at pre-Trump treatment levels.
“I think we’ve been talking about infrastructure for refugees for nine to ten months now, so I guess that’s what they are doing since they haven’t resettled the refugees. And if there is more infrastructure to be built, they need to be clear on what that means, ”he said.
But advocates say they have been frustrated by blocking progress on a number of their recommendations, including conducting virtual interviews and hiring more government workers to overcome backlogs. They also want the United States to expand its referral system beyond the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, by expanding the program to refugees who might otherwise be overlooked.
Owen said this was a big factor why the United States settled so few refugees in 2021.
“This is the case because the administration has not done a good enough job in investing in the reconstruction of the infrastructures abroad and national which we are able to accommodate, and it did not prioritize the improvements we recommended to strengthen the program. and increase the number of arrivals, ”she said.
Varghese said even having the capacity to deal with new refugees will require a whole-of-government approach.
“The State Department needs to ensure that they are given references in the program that reflect the needs of all times and the various humanitarian crises around the world. The Ministry of Homeland Security must increase its capacity for judgment. This means they need to hire more officers, ”he said, meaning the government needs to speed up hiring background checks and provide more space.
“We need the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to ensure that there are no inappropriate restrictions on the eligibility of refugees. … But all agencies must make sure that more cases do not mean more backlogs and [instead] means more decisions.
But supporters warn that the coming year, the Biden administration will not be able to fall back on dismantling the Trump administration to justify low numbers.
“Despite the decimated infrastructure that the Biden administration inherited, it will need to own the relocation figure for the coming fiscal year,” Vignarajah said.
“If we are to achieve President Biden’s goal of hosting 125,000 people, the administration must be aggressive and innovative to expedite processing.”