Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of refugee resettlement agency Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), called the resumption of refugee admissions from regions beyond Afghanistan “welcome news.”
“We can continue resettling Afghan families off of U.S. military facilities and we can resume the work of welcome for refugees of other nationalities arriving from abroad,” she said in the report. “The human impact can’t be understated.” CNN notes agencies like LIRS were decimated under the anti-refugee stance of the previous administration, facing dwindling staff and office closures.
President Biden entered office with a decidedly pro-refugee stance, pledging to raise admissions from a historic low of 15,000 set by the previous administration, to 125,000 in the 2022 fiscal year. The Biden administration also raised the prior administration’s 2021 fiscal year cap to 62,500 (not without some controversy), but cautioned that due to strained infrastructure, it may not reach that number.
It did not: The roughly 11,400 refugees admitted in the 2021 fiscal year as part of the refugee program was “the lowest number of refugees to the U.S. ever since the Refugee Act passed in 1980,” Prism reported last month. “At a time when there is a historical need for refugee resettlement, it is disheartening,” O’Mara Vignarajah said in the report. “But we also knew, when we strongly advocated to the Biden administration to increase the number, that some of that increase was going to be symbolic.”
O’Mara Vignarajah also welcomed the news in September that the administration was raising the 2022 fiscal year cap to 125,000. CNN reports that as of the start of the 2022 fiscal year at the end of November, more than 2,000 refugees have been resettled to the U.S.
She noted at the time that if the pandemic continued to pose challenges, “the administration should implement 21st-century solutions like remote interviews to ensure refugees move through the application pipeline. The world has largely adapted to the human realities of COVID-19; we must ensure refugee policy and programming does the same.” Now that we are facing this fast-spreading omicron variant, these suggestions should be requirements.