(Trends Wide)– The United States admitted 11,411 people through the refugee admission program in fiscal year 2021, according to the State Department. It is the lowest figure in 40 years.
Previously, the lowest number of refugees allowed in the U.S. was 11,814 in fiscal 2020, when the pandemic delayed the process for many. The figures date back to the Refugee Act of 1980.
The United States had for years outperformed other countries in admitting refugees, accepting millions into the country. But President Donald Trump dramatically reduced the number of refugees allowed into the United States and launched a series of measures to limit who was eligible.
The challenges, refugee advocates have said, were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and President Joe Biden’s initial hesitation to approve the Trump-era ceiling increase, which dictates how many refugees are admitted in a given fiscal year.
Biden eventually raised the limit to 62,500 refugees for fiscal year 2021, which ended last month, but admitted it likely would not be reached, citing work to repair “the damage of the last four years.”
Expected Refugee Admission Figures for 2021 and 2022
The Biden administration intends to increase admissions in the new fiscal year, with a cap of 125,000 by 2022, although that is unlikely to be achieved.
“We are saddened but not surprised by the record admission figures for this fiscal year. It speaks to the lasting damage of the Trump administration’s four-year assault on the refugee program,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran, Immigration and Refugee Service, in a statement.
“Rebuilding the program has been further complicated by the pandemic, which has largely prevented the federal government from processing a strong line of refugee arrivals,” he added.
Refugee resettlement organizations are rushing to find homes for tens of thousands of Afghans who fled when the Taliban took control of the country this year. Many of those evacuees have temporary residence permits in the United States and did not go through the traditional resettlement program, so they do not count towards refugee admissions.