LANSING, Mich. — Lansing expected to welcome at least 105 refugees this year under President Joe Biden’s promised immigration reform. So far, six have arrived, leaving some advocates feeling frustrated.
Biden promised to welcome 125,000 refugees into the U.S. during his first year in office. Right now, he’s on track to admit the lowest number of refugees since the resettlement program’s creation.
In February, the Biden administration announced its plan to eliminate discriminatory refugee eligibility requirements left behind from the Trump administration.
State Department officials began making travel arrangements for refugees who had already been vetted and approved for resettlement in the US.
The process is now stalled as Biden has yet to sign the paperwork that would legally lift Trump's restrictions.
Judi Harris, the director of refugee services at St. Vincent Catholic Charities says Biden needs to make good on his promises.
“They just need to fulfill their commitment to this. I mean, this was part of the Biden plan before he took office,” Harris said.
As of earlier this month, the Biden administration has only admitted 2,050 refugees into the U.S., according to State Department data.
At this rate, about 4,100 people could resettle this year, even fewer than Trump allowed in 2020.
Oscar Castaneda, the vice president of the board for Action of Greater Lansing, says the focus should be Biden’s tone toward refugees rather than the numbers.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s working,” Castaneda said. “What I found really important is that the administration is coming at it with an attitude of communication and dialogue. This really matters.”
For Harris, the Biden administration’s work to repair the resettlement system goes beyond the numbers.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done overseas to restore the processes and the structure so that people are going through the process and getting on planes,” said Harris. “We haven’t heard that any of that is happening so far.”
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