Human Rights Advocates: US Might Not Reach Promised Refugee Cap | Voice of America

The Biden administration has increased the number of refugees the United States resettles each year from the Trump administration’s lows, but human rights activists say if officials “don’t act quickly ”, They will not reach the ceiling of 62,500 refugees by October.

“Despite the increase in the admission cap and the removal of restrictive eligibility categories by the Biden administration, the United States has only resettled 3,600 refugees this week,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president. Managing Director of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Vignarajah told VOA that the administration “is definitely making progress,” but there is still a long way to go to rebuild the US refugee program.

New U.S. citizen Doris Nazarian waves the flag while posing next to a replica of the Statue of Liberty during a naturalization ceremony ahead of World Refugee Day by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on June 17 2021 in Los Angeles.

Advocacy groups say that over the past 30 years, the United States has resettled an average of 95,000 refugees each year. A YouGov public opinion poll released this week suggested 56% of Americans think this should be the minimum number, but experts say it could take years to reach that many annual arrivals again.

“Under the previous administration, we have seen record admission ceilings year after year. As a direct result, more than 100 local resettlement sites have been forced to suspend services or shut down altogether. A system that took 40 years to build has been devastated in just four years, ”Vignarajah said.

In fact, a new report recently released by human rights organization Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) made several recommendations to the Biden administration, including expanding a community sponsorship system as well as a sponsorship program. to better support the resettlement of refugees in the country.

“The Biden administration should take this moment to reaffirm American leadership in keeping its promise to rebuild the refugee program,” said the AIUSA report.

A Biden official said in a statement that the United States is working with federal, state and local partners to implement presidential decrees and restore the national refugee admission and resettlement program.

Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Tracy Renaud, said the agency, responsible for processing and adjudicating various immigration cases, “is proud of the role that we play by ensuring that those eligible for refuge continue to find safe refuge in the United States. “

Earlier in his term, President Joe Biden signed an executive order setting the number of refugees admitted at 15,000 for fiscal year 2021, a number set by the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Following criticism from Democratic allies and human rights advocates, Biden raised the cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year.

According to sources familiar with the data, there are currently around 2,800 people considered “ready to leave” to the United States and over 78,000 at various stages of the US resettlement process overseas.

The US State Department declined to comment on refugee resettlement figures.

In 2019, House Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, and Senator Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced the Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement Act, or GRACE Act, which would set the refugee ceiling at at least 95 000.

Gillian Triggs, Deputy High Commissioner for Protection at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in an interview with VOA, said leadership and “political will” around the world are needed to ensure that protection is provided to those fleeing dangerous situations.

“Unfortunately, the plight of refugees and displaced people has been mixed up, confused with general migration – which of course is also very, very important – but refugees are a very special group. They are fleeing violence and persecution, discrimination and criminal gangs, and they need support in law and politics, but you need political leadership, ”Triggs said.

And the latest UNHCR figures show that there are more than 82 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, while 68% of all internationally displaced refugees come from five countries: Syria, Venezuela, l Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar) and South Sudan.

Celia Mendoza contributed to this report

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