Record Low Number of Refugees Resettled in the US in FY 2021

By Patrick Goodenough | October 6, 2021 | 4:22am EDT
A U.N.-administered refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. (Photo by Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency/Getty Images)
A U.N.-administered refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. (Photo by Niels Wenstedt/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Despite a last-minute escalation during the final month of the fiscal year, the Biden administration in FY 2021 oversaw the smallest resettlement of refugees since the modern-day refugee admissions program was established in 1980.

A total of 11,411 refugees were admitted to the United States during the year that ended on September 30 – 403 fewer than the previous record low, recorded during the last full fiscal year of the Trump administration.

The month of September alone saw one-third of the annual number of resettled refugees arrive – 3,774 refugees out of the total 11,411.  The largest contingents came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (1,442 refugees), Syria (705), and Sudan (360).

(Graph: CNSNews.com / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)
(Graph: CNSNews.com / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)

The DRC and Syria also accounted for the largest numbers of refugees admitted in FY 2021 (4,891 and 1,246 refugees respectively), followed by Afghanistan (872 refugees) and Ukraine (803 refugees).

President Trump a year ago set a record-low ceiling of 15,000 refugee admissions for FY 2021, but President Biden last May increased that to 62,500.

(Graph: CNSNews.com / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)
(Graph: CNSNews.com / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)

Actual admissions have frequently fallen below annual ceilings set by administrations in past years, no more so than in the two years after the 9/11 terrorist attack, when admissions under the Bush administration reached just 38 and 40 percent of the annual ceilings.

In FY 2021, however, the difference between the Biden administration’s ceiling and the number of refugees resettled was considerably larger, with admissions accounting for just 18 percent of the ceiling.

For fiscal year 2022, the administration has proposed a cap of 125,000 refugees. If that figure is confirmed following consultation with lawmakers, it would be the highest ceiling set by an administration in almost three decades.

(Graph: CNSNews.com / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)
(Graph: CNSNews.com / Data: State Department Refugee Processing Center)

The refugee admission numbers released by the State Department Refugee Processing Center on Tuesday night include 229 Afghan refugees admitted in September.

The department also released a separate tally of 276 Afghan holders of special immigrant visas (SIVs) who arrived during September. The Congress-created program covers Afghans who worked for the U.S. government over the past 20 years.

Not included, however, are figures relating to most of the Afghans brought to the United States during and after the evacuation mission at Kabul airport, following the Taliban takeover.

Of the 124,000 people evacuated by the end of August when the mission ended, some 53,000 Afghans were being accommodated in U.S. military bases as of the send of September.

Many of those are “parolees” – Afghans who did not work for the U.S. and so are not eligible for SIVs, but who have been granted temporary admission on humanitarian grounds.

Exactly how many fall into that category remains unclear.

During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing last month ranking member Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) suggested that as many of 75 percent of the Afghans were parolees.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas did not directly address that number, but said that apart from lawful permanent residents and SIV-holders, the remaining Afghans include those awaiting SIV processing, as well as individuals who qualify for Priority 1 or Priority 2 refugee programs.

Early last month Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.) visited Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey – one of eight bases being used for “Operation Allies Welcome” – and later told CNSNews.com that he was informed that 70 percent of the Afghans being housed there were parolees.

According to the DHS’ Operation Allies Welcome website:

Most Afghan nationals will be paroled into the United States, on a case-by-case basis, for humanitarian reasons. This permits certain Afghan nationals to come into the United States, on a case-by-case basis, for a period of two years and subsequent to appropriate screening and vetting, provided their movement to the United States is being carried out pursuant to the current operation.

Once paroled by CBP, Afghan nationals may be eligible to apply for immigration status through USCIS. Afghan nationals paroled by CBP will also have conditions placed on their parole, to include medical screening and vaccination requirements, and other reporting requirements. Failure to follow these conditions may be cause for denial of work authorization and potentially termination of the parole and initiation of detention and removal.

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