Last week, President Biden announced he would expand the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to 125,000 annually, with an immediate increase beginning soon. The 15,000-person cap set by the Trump administration was the lowest since the Refugee Act became law in 1980 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
In the executive order, Mr. Biden wrote, “The long tradition of the United States as a leader in refugee resettlement provides a beacon of hope for persecuted people around the world, promotes stability in regions experiencing conflict, and facilitates international collaboration to address the global refugee crisis.”
The executive order is a crucial step forward. There are more refugees and asylum seekers than at any time in modern history, even surpassing World War II numbers, and globally there are 26 million refugees, a number larger than the entire population of Australia.
The President’s announcement is a hopeful sign, but there is a lot to do to rebuild the resettlement system’s infrastructure at home and abroad. The previous administration gutted the refugee processing system. The Citizenship and Immigration refugee corps, for example, has only 136 refugee officers on staff compared to 352 officers in 2017, and one-third of refugee resettlement offices nationwide have closed.
During the past four years, IINE served a smaller number of refugee arrivals. However, we expanded our workforce development, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and immigration legal services programs, allowing us to serve more new Americans than we did before 2017.
IINE has begun taking steps to prepare for the increase in refugee arrivals, working with our national partner, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and local community health centers and volunteer groups as we determine the staff we need to support newcomers. We are excited to welcome more refugees to New England and are encouraged by President Biden’s commitment to rebuilding systems that were dismantled under the previous administration.