Refugee Admissions (Excluding Afghans) Fall Well Short of Biden’s Three-Decade-High Ceiling

Patrick Goodenough | September 13, 2022 | 3:55am EDT
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United Nations refugee tents at a makeshift camp in Sindh province, Pakistan on September 8, 2022. Record monsoon rains have caused devastating floods across Pakistan since June, killing more than 1,200 people and leaving almost a third of the country under water. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
United Nations refugee tents at a makeshift camp in Sindh province, Pakistan on September 8, 2022. Record monsoon rains have caused devastating floods across Pakistan since June, killing more than 1,200 people and leaving almost a third of the country under water. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – As Fiscal Year 2022 draws to a close, the Biden administration is proposing a 125,000-person ceiling on refugee admissions for the new fiscal year – the same cap it set last year, although actual admissions have fallen well short of that.

As of the end of August, the U.S. had resettled 19,919 refugees in FY 2022, and the State Department estimates that by the end of this month, the fiscal year total will be in 23,000-25,000 range. While that is an increase from 11,411 refugee admissions in FY 2021, it is still less than one-fifth of the 125,000 the administration had aspired to resettle this year.

However, the figures do not include nearly 80,000 Afghan refugees, SIVs and “parolees” resettled in the U.S. between August 2021 and August 2022 under “Operation Allies Welcome.”

(SIVs are those Afghans who are admitted under the Congress-created Special Immigrant Visa program on the basis of having worked for the U.S. in Afghanistan over the past two decades – until the Taliban seized power last summer. “Parolees” are Afghans not eligible under the SIV program, but who have been granted temporary admission on humanitarian grounds.)

The FY 2022 refugee admission ceiling of 125,000, set by the administration last fall, was the highest cap set by any administration in almost three decades. That followed a series of ever-decreasing annual admission caps set by the Trump administration, each one setting a new record low – 50,000 refugees in FY 2017, 45,000 in FY 2018, 30,000 in FY 2019, 18,000 in FY 2020, and 15,000 in FY 2021.

FY 2022 data as of August 31 (Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: USRAP)
FY 2022 data as of August 31 (Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: USRAP)

In a proposed presidential determination sent to Congress late last week, the administration says it wants a 125,000 cap again in FY 2023, which begins on October 1, pointing to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world.

Among populations of concern, the report lists Central Americans, Afghans at risk due to their affiliation with the U.S., at-risk Uyghurs, Hong Kong refugees including “activists, journalists, and political dissidents,” Ukrainian refugees, “individuals persecuted for their religious beliefs” and those “persecuted based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics.”

The administration proposes allocating 40,000 refugee places to applicants from Africa, 35,000 from the Near East-South Asia region, 15,000 from East Asia, 15,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 15,000 from Europe and Central Asia, with the remaining 5,000 held over as an unallocated reserve.

The only change in the regional allocations from last year is an increase in the number of slots proposed for Europe – 15,000, up from 10,000 – to account for the war in Ukraine. (As a result, the unallocated reserve number drops from 10,000 last year to 5,000 in FY 2023.)

The breakdown for regional origin of refugees admitted to the U.S. in FY 2022 is: 8,593 from Africa, 6,022 from Near East and South Asia, 1,985 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,764 from Europe and Central Asia, and 1,555 from Asia.

Refugees from just two countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Syria, together made up almost half (48.6 percent) of all refugees resettled in the U.S. in FY 2022.

The countries of origin for the largest contingents of FY 2022 refugees include DRC (5,629 refugees, or 28.2 percent of the total), Syria (4,063 or 20.4 percent), Burma (1,498 or 7.5 percent), Sudan (1,477 or 7.4 percent), and Ukraine (1,240 or 6.2 percent).

Those same countries largely featured in the list in the previous fiscal year. The biggest obvious differences were that the DRC accounted for a significantly smaller proportion in FY 2022 (28.2 percent, down from 42.8 percent in FY 2021), while refugees from Syria accounted for a substantially bigger proportion in FY 2022 (20.4 percent, up from 10.9 percent a year earlier).

FY 2022 data as of August 31 (Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: USRAP)
FY 2022 data as of August 31 (Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: USRAP)

The administration’s presidential determination report to Congress attributes the fact that only 19,919 refugees – 15.9 percent of the ceiling – have been admitted so far this fiscal year to the COVID-19 pandemic; to a reallocation of resources in response to the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine; and to “heavy cuts to operational capacity made in previous years” to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

“The administration has undertaken urgent initiatives to restore, strengthen, and modernize the USRAP, and we are beginning to make progress towards fulfilling President Biden’s ambitious admissions target,” it says.

“However, the heavy cuts to operational capacity made in previous years and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have hampered the program’s rebound.”

“Additionally, the administration’s robust response to humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine, prompting unprecedented emergency resettlement and relocation efforts, required a significant reallocation of time and resources.”

Over the last 15 fiscal years, numbers of actual refugee admissions – as opposed to ceilings set by administrations – have ranged from a high of 84,994 in FY 2016 to a low of 11,411 in FY 2021

FY 2022 data as of August 31 (Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: USRAP)
FY 2022 data as of August 31 (Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: USRAP)

The presidential determination report went to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, ahead of consultation involving the secretaries of State, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security.

“Through the U.S. refugee resettlement program, our government, civil society and private sector partners, state and local officials, and Americans in communities throughout the country demonstrate day in and day out the generosity and core values of our nation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

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