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Biden administration falls in need of fiscal yr 2021 U.S. refugee admissions cap

The Biden administration admitted 11,411 refugees to the U.S. in fiscal yr 2021, falling far in need of the president’s refugee admissions cap of 62,500 for that yr.

The brand new variety of admitted refugees, launched by the State Division this week, is a few fifth of the cap for the fiscal yr that ended on Sept. 30 and is the bottom variety of folks admitted by way of the Refugee Act because it handed in 1980.

The administration is working to reverse the hardline insurance policies set by former President Donald Trump, who curtailed the variety of refugees allowed to come back to the U.S. and positioned limitations on who’s eligible. As well as, the coronavirus pandemic has difficult the administration’s resettlement course of for refugees.

President Joe Biden established a new annual cap in May after dealing with stress from Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates to shortly enhance the meager 15,000-refugee ceiling that Trump put in place earlier than leaving workplace.

On Friday, Biden increased the cap to 125,000 for fiscal yr 2022, which he vowed to do months earlier.

State Division spokesman Ned Worth said in a statement last month that the president was consulting Congress about his intentions to lift the refugee cap for the primary full fiscal yr of his presidency. 

“A strong refugee admissions program is important to U.S. overseas coverage pursuits and nationwide safety goals, and is a mirrored image of core American values,” Worth stated within the assertion. By legislation, presidents should seek the advice of with Congress earlier than figuring out what number of refugees ought to be allowed every fiscal yr.

Biden conceded in May that the caps are unlikely to be reached, citing work to undo “the harm of the final 4 years” beneath Trump.

Throughout fiscal yr 2017, when Trump took workplace, the State Division reported solely 53,716 refugees admitted into the U.S. This can be a decline from the 84,994 refugees admitted through the earlier fiscal yr beneath former President Barack Obama, who set the refugee ceiling for that yr to 85,000.

The low variety of refugee admissions beneath the Trump administration has additionally gutted the U.S. resettlement infrastructure, with a number of companies shutting down their places of work. In response to a report by the Penn Biden Center from final yr, a few third of native resettlement places of work throughout the nation closed or suspended operations as of April 2019.

By the top of December 2020, fewer than 1,000 refugees had been processed beneath Trump’s 15,000 cap for fiscal yr 2021, in response to State Division knowledge.

Invoice Frelick, director of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, stated in a press release that the Trump administration “decimated the refugee settlement infrastructure.”

“The Biden administration couldn’t be anticipated to rebuild it in a day,” Frelick stated within the assertion Thursday. 

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, additionally highlighted the previous president’s position within the “record-low” refugee admission numbers in a press release Monday. 

“We’re saddened however unsurprised by the record-low admission figures for this fiscal yr,” O’Mara Vignarajah stated within the assertion. “It speaks to the lasting harm of the Trump administration’s four-year assault on the refugee program.”

She famous that the worldwide pandemic has additionally hindered refugee resettlement efforts.

“Rebuilding this system from the rubble has additional been difficult by the pandemic, which has largely prevented the federal authorities from processing a sturdy pipeline of refugee arrivals,” O’Mara Vignarajah stated.

The State Division cited the pandemic as a purpose for the low refugee admission figures as effectively.

A division spokesperson informed CNBC that the pandemic continued to “drastically curtail” the conventional operations of the refugee resettlement course of. For instance, it prevented officers from conducting in-person interviews overseas with refugees hoping to come back to the U.S. and restricted the operations of resettlement assist facilities.

“We stay constrained by COVID however we’ve adjusted and we anticipate to see arrival numbers proceed to mirror our elevated efforts,” a State Division spokesperson stated in a press release Friday.  

The Biden administration is working to rebuild the refugee processing capability in fiscal yr 2022, the spokesperson stated. They famous plans to bolster resettlement assist facilities and have a “sturdy resumption” of interviews that might be held each nearly and in particular person.

“Our overview of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program revealed that it’ll take a while to construct again towards the numbers to which the President has dedicated,” the spokesperson stated within the assertion. “The rebuilding course of is effectively underway and can allow us to assist a lot elevated admissions numbers in future years. ”

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