San Diego, Oct. 5 (BUS) – Refugee admissions in the United States fell to a record low during the 2021 budget, despite President Joe Biden’s pledge to reverse steep cuts made by the Trump administration, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press. Journalism.
A total of 11,445 refugees were allowed into the United States during the budget year that ended Thursday, according to a person with access to the information who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the number.
And that figure does not include the tens of thousands of Afghans who were brought to the United States with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, ending the 20-year war there. Many of these Afghans were allowed to enter the country under a different legal status known as humanitarian parole, which is why they are not included in the refugee tally.
The figure still highlights Biden’s challenges in reversing the restrictive refugee policies put in place by the administration of former President Donald Trump, which targeted the program as part of a broader campaign to reduce both legal and illegal immigration to the United States, The Associated Press reports.
The US president sets the maximum refugee admissions for each fiscal year, which runs from October 1 to September 30. Biden did not take office until about four months after the start of the last fiscal year.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the number.
The total number of admitted refugees of 11,445 is well below the state cap of 62,500 in the 2021 budget that Biden set in May. It’s also short of the record 15,000 cap that Trump initially set for this year.
Biden initially indicated he would not exceed the 15,000 cap, saying in an emergency resolution that it “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.”
But this led to a sharp rebuke from Democratic allies who criticized him for not taking the symbolic step of allowing more refugees this year. The White House quickly reversed course and raised the cap, although Biden said at the time he did not expect the US to meet the new cap of 62,500 with only four months left in the 2021 budget, given ongoing restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and labor Which management says is necessary to rebuild the program.
Refugee advocates said the record low reflects the damage the Trump administration has done to the program. Prior to the 2021 budget, the lowest allowed number of refugees was during the 2020 budget year when the number was 11,814.
The historical annual average was 95,000 under previous Republican and Democratic administrations.
The Biden administration has expanded the narrow eligibility criteria set by his predecessor that have turned away most refugees, among other steps. But critics say that is not enough and that the Biden administration has moved too slowly.
It remains to be seen whether refugee admissions will reach anywhere close to the 125,000 cap that Biden has set for the current budget year, which began Friday.
Krish Umara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugees, one of nine US agencies working to resettle refugees, said efforts need to be expedited to add overseas staff, conduct more remote interviews and mitigate the massive backlog of asylum applications.
She said that while the Trump administration has gutted the program, now Biden’s responsibility is to revive it.
“If we are to reach President Biden’s goal of welcoming 125,000 refugees, the administration must be bold and innovative in stepping up treatment,” she said in a statement.
Mark Hetfield of HIAS, another resettlement agency, agreed that Biden “should have done a better job.”
“What this really low record shows … is that the administration needs to remove red tape and other obstacles that hinder the resettlement program from responding effectively to emergencies like Afghanistan,” he said.
Biden, who co-sponsored the legislation that created the refugee program in 1980, said reopening the door to refugees is “how we give back to our nation’s spirit.”