Agencies that have typically worked with the federal government to resettle refugees in the U.S. have welcomed the pledge from President-elect Joe Biden to raise admissions to 125,000 annually. I wrote “typically worked” because the outgoing administration has decimated the resettlement program, reducing admissions to record lows and leading to the closure of some agencies.
Agencies that are still operating say Biden’s pledge, which he recently reaffirmed as president-elect, “offers hope,” The Columbus Dispatch reports. But there’s no illusions about how hard it’ll be to begin restoring our nation’s place in the world. “I know our work is cut out for us,” Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) executive director Angie Plummer told The Dispatch.
Contrary to xenophobic lies from the outgoing president, the refugee admissions process is complicated and lengthy, and recent policies and the novel coronavirus pandemic have only made it steeper. “About 38,000 refugees are currently approved by the federal government, but only 2,557 are ready to depart for America,” Church World Service interim director for policy and advocacy Meredith Owen said in the report.
”It’s a much smaller pipeline than existed five years ago,” Owen continued to The Dispatch. “Under the refugee allocation categories … the Trump administration set, only about 20,000 of them would even be eligible to come.”
Owen said in the report that had the outgoing president been reelected, admissions could have dropped to perhaps as little as 7,500 or even less per year, compared to the former average of 80,000 admissions per year. The outgoing administration’s goal has been to see no one granted safety in the U.S.: White House aide and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller reportedly once said that he “would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.” Stephen Miller will thankfully be gone from the White House come January 20, 2021.
The Dispatch reports that among families waiting to reunite under a Biden administration are Muhammed Omar and his 17-year-old stepdaughter Ramla Aweis, currently separated under the Muslim ban. The teen, who is currently in Tunisia, “had lost all hope of being able to join her mother, stepfather and two half-siblings in Columbus until Biden was elected, he said,” The Dispatch continued.
President-elect Biden has vowed to end the ban, reportedly on day one of his administration though that date hasn’t yet been confirmed. “She’s hopeful now,” Omar told The Dispatch about his daughter. “We can see a lot of hope right now.”
Nadia Kasvin, co-founder and director of resettlement agency US Together, told The Dispatch that she’s also hopeful, despite the outgoing administration’s attempts to kill the refugee program entirely: “It gives us hope that we can rebuild a robust refugee resettlement program and, for so many people in our community, it gives them hope that they could be reunited with their families.” She said, “we will need a very systemic, very planned, very strategic building up of capacity at all levels.”