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US refugee intake on the rise

4 July 20230 comments

The United States’ refugee intake is on the rise again after it hit a historical low during the administration of President Donald Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report reveals.

The report, from the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, shows in the first eight months of 2023 US fiscal year nearly 31,800 refugees were resettled in the United States – up from the all-time low of 11,400 in 2021 and more than any year since 2017.

While the 2023 arrivals are still less than half of the number of refugees resettled in the US annually over the life of the modern resettlement program, the increase suggests the country has turned a corner.

The report says that US refugee resettlement has lagged behind the Biden administration’s ambitions, and the number of new arrivals remains far short of the ceiling set at 125,000 admissions for 2023.

So far this fiscal year, 70 percent of resettled refugees in the US have come from just four countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Syria and Afghanistan.

The report also includes an analysis of US asylum system, pointing to differences from the US resettlement program.

It provides a data snapshot of recent asylum seekers. In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, asylum seekers have mostly come from Venezuela, China or El Salvador.

More than 1.3 million asylum cases are pending in US immigration courts or before the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“The US resettlement program is for people outside the United States and historically has resettled more refugees annually than any other country,” the report says.

“The asylum pathway is for those who present themselves at U.S. ports of entry or are already within the country and seek protection. U.S. refugee resettlement has fluctuated significantly over the past decade, reflecting the priority of presidential administrations.

“While the Trump administration reduced the annual resettlement cap to a historical low of 15,000 by its last year in office (FY 2021), President Joe Biden reversed course and raised the cap to 62,500 for the remainder of FY 2021 and then to 125,000 for FY 2022 and FY 2023.

“Despite these increases, the pace of actual resettlement has lagged, although it has steadily ticked up as the pandemic has waned and processing resumed. Approximately 11,400 refugees were resettled in FY 2021, 25,500 in FY 2022, and 31,800 in the first eight months of FY 2023.

“Over the 43 years of the modern resettlement program, an average of approximately 73,300 refugees have been resettled annually.

“Additionally, approximately 17,700 people received asylum in FY 2021 (the most recent data available), the fewest since 13,800 asylum petitions were granted in FY 1994.

“More than 1.3 million asylum applications awaited processing as of May 2023, and many among the record number of arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border intend to seek asylum,” the report said.

Read the full report here: Article: Refugees and Asylees in the United States |