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“We can and must do more," they say. The Biden administration pledged to ramp up resettlements. But even with deepening humanitarian crises unfolding in Ukraine, Afghanistan and other nations, refugee admissions fell to a historic low in fiscal 2021.
More than 200 city and state leaders have signed on to a letter urging President Biden to sharply increase the number of refugees resettling in the U.S.
The letter, drafted by a humanitarian aid organization, notes that resettlements fell to a historic low in fiscal 2021, with just 11,411 individuals admitted, despite humanitarian crises unfolding in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Somalia and several other nations.
Biden pledged to boost those numbers this year after a steep drop under the Trump administration. But the U.S. will likely fail to meet the president's higher target.
“We applauded your action to increase the refugee admissions goal to 125,000 for FY 2022, but we are disappointingly on pace to reach less than 20 percent of that number,’’ the letter said.
“We can and must do more. Our communities stand ready to welcome refugees in need. We are calling on your administration to double down on the investment of resources necessary to rebuild the resettlement program to welcome more refugees this upcoming fiscal year,’’ the letter states.
City and state leaders from Alaska to Wisconsin have endorsed the effort. The latest official to sign on was Dubuque, Iowa Mayor Brad Cavanagh, who received approval Monday night from the city council.
The move drew some backlash on social media, with critics suggesting that Cavanagh was seeking to resettle refugees to Dubuque, a town of about 60,000 along the banks of the Mississippi River.
That prompted Cavanagh to issue a press release Wednesday clarifying the town’s position.
“I’m disappointed that this letter has been inaccurately reported as something it is not,” Cavanagh said. “We as a nation have a long history of welcoming refugees, including here in Iowa. This letter simply advocates for our federal government to meet its stated goals for successfully resettling refugees in our country.”
Cavanagh said it was important to add his voice to the chorus of public officials speaking up for refugees. He notes that the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce advocated for the letter, which it viewed as a way to address a workforce shortage.
“I agree with the message in the letter that the United States needs to continue to push toward a more efficient and effective system of resettling refugees in our country,’’ said the mayor, who was elected in 2021 and who serves in a non-partisan capacity.
“I think it’s important for local leaders to advocate at the federal level for policies and procedures that will benefit our local communities. As outlined in the letter, resettling refugees effectively in the United States can have many positive effects at the local level,’’ Cavanagh said.
Biden will determine how many refugees can resettle in the U.S. in consultation with Congress. The process typically occurs around the end of the federal fiscal year.
The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates a record-breaking 100 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced; 26.6 million of them are registered as refugees. More than half of those refugees are children.
The letter is a project of the Refugee Advocacy Lab, an initiative hosted by Refugees International, an independent humanitarian organization, and co-founded by three other aid organizations: The International Refugee Assistance Project, International Rescue Committee and Refugee Congress.
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