Biden Administration’s Mixed Signals on Refugee Resettlement

After stating soon after assuming office it would reverse the Trump administration’s record low cap on refugee admissions for FY 2021 and admit 62,500 refugees by the end of the fiscal year, on April 16, 2021, the Biden administration issued a new Presidential Determination on refugee admissions restoring a regional approach to refugee resettlement, but maintaining the 15,000 cap.

Within hours, likely in response to tremendous blowback, the administration announced that the 15,000 cap is only the beginning, and that by May 15, 2021, it will make a final determination on an increased cap for refugee admissions.

During the first half of FY 2021, only 2,050 refugees have been admitted to the U.S.    No refugees have been resettled in Maine during this period.  In comparison, during the first half of FY 2016, the last year before the Trump administration began slashing refugee resettlement numbers, nearly 30,000 refugees were resettled.  Maine resettled nearly 650 refugees that year.

With a record 80 million refugees and displaced individuals around the world, the U.S. has both a moral and humanitarian imperative to resume taking a leadership role in refugee resettlement.  Additionally, in Maine, for over 40 years, refugees have been a reliable stream of new Mainers, keeping Maine’s communities vibrant, shoring up our shrinking workforce, and strengthening Maine’s economy.

The White House must follow through on admitting far more than 15,000 refugees this fiscal year, and on its promise to begin admitting 125,000 refugees per year beginning in FY 2022.