Biden signed an order to increase refugee reception and placed 125,000 places in the next fiscal year


President Biden said Thursday He will sign an executive order to expedite the admission of refugees and allow his government to shelter 125,000 people around the world who have fled violence, conflict and persecution during his first full fiscal year.

The order, Biden said, is intended to “restore” the decades-old US refugee program decimated by former President Donald Trump, who often portrayed refugees as economic and security risks. After former President Barack Obama set an upper limit of 110,000 before leaving office, Trump lowered it every fiscal year and allocated a historically low 15,000 seats in 2020.

During a speech at the State Department, Mr Biden said the goal is to set a ceiling of 125,000 people for fiscal 2022, which starts in October. Mr Biden also said he had directed the State Department to consult with Congress “to make a down payment on this commitment as soon as possible,” indicating that he may raise the cap of 15,000 for the current fiscal year .

“It will take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that is exactly what we will do,” Biden said during his remarks, noting that refugee resettlement has historically been supported by both parties.

Last week the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that countries around the world took in fewer than 23,000 refugees in 2020, the lowest number in nearly two decades, partly due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency said that of the more than 20 million refugees it supports in various countries, 1.44 million are in dire need of resettlement.

The U.S. took in fewer than 12,000 refugees in fiscal 2020 and took in nearly 1,000 between October and December, according to the latest U.S. State Department data.

The modern US refugee program, established in 1980, is designed to protect people abroad who have been persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a social group such as the LGBT community.

An Eritrean refugee woman is registered during an items distribution organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Mai Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia on January 30, 2021.


Shortly after taking office in 2017, Mr Trump temporarily suspended the refugee program, arguing that further review procedures needed to be carried out. In addition to drastically cutting admissions, Mr Trump has issued an order that allows states and local jurisdictions to block refugee resettlement in their communities.

Mr Trump’s changes caused the nonprofit groups helping the government to relocate refugees, shut down offices, lay off staff and lose federal funds.

Matthew Soerens, the director of church mobilization at World Relief, one of those relocation agencies, said his group closed eight offices during the Trump administration. The resettlement of 125,000 refugees in the further course of the 2021 financial year is likely to be impossible given the current infrastructure.

“We are very excited about the rebuilding and look forward to the opportunity,” Soerens told CBS News. “But we’re also doing this as quickly as possible with limited resources. It won’t be something that will be rebuilt overnight.”

Resettlement agencies welcome refugees when they come to the United States and assist them with housing, job hunting, schooling for their children, and other matters to facilitate their integration into American communities.

Meredith Owen, the director of politics and advocacy at Church World Service, another resettlement agency, echoed Soerens’ comments.

“We will need the Biden government to take really concrete steps to rebuild the overseas and domestic infrastructure in order to actually resettle the number of refugees we hope for over the next four years,” Owen said vs. CBS News Processing of refugees should also be accelerated.

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has closed or suspended 17 of its 48 resettlement offices over the past four years. Krish Vignarajah, the group’s president, acknowledged the logistical challenges posed by increasing the intake of refugees and highlighted the symbolism of Mr Biden’s commitment.

“Raising the ceiling will literally be life-saving for hundreds of thousands fleeing violence and persecution because of the color of their skin, the way they worship or who they love,” Vignarajah told CBS News.

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