After taking office early in 2021, President Joe Biden promised to quickly reverse the policies of former President Donald Trump and increase the number of permissible refugee admissions into the country.
And in March, just after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Biden pledged to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the United States.
By most accounts, Biden has fallen short on both commitments.
Citing data from the Department of Homeland Security, only 6,500 Ukrainians have arrived under the program, and only 27,000 have been selected and approved for travel to the U.S.
Contrast that figure with Eastern European countries already welcoming millions, while the United Kingdom and Canada have admitted nearly 60,000 and 37,000 refugees, respectively.
Danielle Grigsby, director of external affairs at Community Sponsorship Hub, seems to point the blame at the Trump White House.
"The domestic infrastructure to welcome and resettle newcomers was decimated under the past administration, and that building back process is still very much ongoing," Grigsby told Newsweek earlier this year.
Before the Trump administration, the Center for Global Development (CGD) hailed the U.S. as the world leader in resettling refugees fleeing war, persecution, and violence across the globe.
But for 2016-20, essentially accounting for Trump's presidency, the number of refugees admitted to America dropped by nearly 86%.
According to a Refugee Council USA report, lower admissions led to decreased funding, and the subsequent closure of more than 100 U.S. resettlement offices during Trump's term in office.
In fairness to Trump, there were no large-scale wars between countries during his time in office, whereas the Afghanistan/Islamist Taliban debacle occurred last summer (on Biden's watch), and the Russia-Ukraine war has been ongoing since late February.
In other words, no pressing need for massive refugee resettlements, due to war.
As part of President Biden's renewed commitment to resettlement infrastructure:
- Biden raised the cap for annual refugee admissions to 125,000.
- The president has encouraged initiatives like the Sponsor Circle Program, a community-led resettlement initiative, to handle some of the burden on traditional resettlement agencies.
- In collaboration with Homeland Security, Biden touted the virtues of "Uniting for Ukraine," a complementary program which allows individuals and organizations to directly sponsor Ukrainians looking to enter the country.
Approved applicants will reportedly receive employment eligibility and approval to stay in the U.S. under "humanitarian parole" for up to two years.
According to CBS News, the number of applications and case approvals indicate the Uniting for Ukraine program could quickly become the "largest official private refugee sponsorship initiative in U.S. history," replacing a program that dissipated in the 1990s and allowed U.S. groups to finance the resettlement of 16,000 refugees over six years.
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