President Joe Biden in his first days in office issued an executive order seeking to put the U.S. on track to welcome 125,000 refugees in the first full fiscal year of his administration, from a historic low of 15,000 set by the previous occupant of the Oval Office. Until that first full fiscal year, Biden also proposed quadrupling the current fiscal year’s cap, to 62,500 refugees.
Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson noted at the time that Biden’s subsequent visit to the State Department “sen[t] an unmistakable message … that priorities have changed in the federal government.” But two months later, CNN reports that Biden has yet to sign the presidential determination, which would begin to put his plan into motion. Lacking that final signature, hundreds of refugees in recent weeks have seen their flights to the U.S. cancelled.
Probably the first assumption regarding why Biden has not yet given his final signature would be that the U.S. refugee resettlement system has been decimated due to the anti-refugee policies of the past four years, and is simply not prepared to welcome new families. Agencies that have worked with the federal government to resettle refugees in the U.S. had welcomed Biden’s pledge to restore admission numbers to 125,000, but admitted “our work is cut out for us,” The Columbus Dispatch reported last year.
But, it’s these refugee resettlement agencies themselves who are right now calling on the Biden administration to give this final approval. “The nine resettlement agencies, along with Refugee Council USA, urged Biden to sign off on the higher cap Friday, calling it ‘imperative,’ according to a letter addressed to the President,” CNN reported.
Resettlement agencies themselves are saying they have capability to handle the initial step of 62,500 admissions set by the Biden administration. Refugee Council USA’s interim director John Slocum in fact said the number “is fully within our capacity to manage, both in terms of the relevant government agencies, as well as the nonprofit and faith-based entities that serve refugees through a nationwide public-private partnership,” Religion News Service (RNS) reported.
Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, said he’s worried the lack of a signature meant the U.S. may not even hit the current 15,000 ceiling. “They’ve actually put the program in worse shape,” he said in the CNN report. “They’ve actually done harm by not signing the PD.” That report said that as of March 31, just 2,050 refugees have been admitted to the U.S. in the current fiscal year.
Frustrating advocates and legislators like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen is that there’s been no clarity from the White House on why Biden had not yet given the necessary signature. The White House “has offered no explanation,” The New York Times reported. “I don’t know why there’s a hold up. I want to understand why this hasn’t already happened,” Warren said according to HuffPost’s Igor Bobic. CNN reported that Van Hollen said Biden “has not signed them yet, and I do not know why he has not yet signed those documents.”
The Times reported that among the more than 700 refugees who have had their flights cancelled was the wife of Joseph Madogo, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “He had already rented a new apartment and bought a new bed and dining room set when he heard her flight had been canceled.” Madogo said in the report he was set to surprise her. “Then suddenly, two or three days before, they said she would not make it. I was very, very disappointed.”
One of the biggest worries for refugees are their medical and security clearances expiring due to delays, forcing them to have to begin the process all over again. “If one of a refugee’s clearances expires, it can create a ‘revolving door’ as other family members’ clearances also expire while he or she tries to renew,” RNS reported.
“The biggest roadblock right now is the president not signing this presidential determination so we can start to make those preparations for real and start welcoming refugees into the community,” HIAS senior vice president of public affairs Melanie Nezer said according to RNS. “The refugee determination is seemingly being held up at the highest levels of the Biden administration, and absolutely no one is explaining why,” tweeted American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “We need him to sign it.”
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.