Biden Doubles Amount of Refugee Admissions for Next Year as Congress Unable to Negotiate New Budget
13:38 GMT 09.10.2021 (Updated: 13:40 GMT 09.10.2021)
The number of annual admissions, set by the US president, had hit record lows under President Donald Trump, who also excluded citizens of certain countries from being admitted at all.
US President Joe Biden has declared that the limit on refugee admissions will be doubled for the 2022 fiscal year compared to 2021, reaching 125,000 people. This comes after the Democrats raised the limits for 2021 admissions in May, boosting the number from the 15,000 proposed by Trump to 62,500.
While Trump set the level of admissions to its lowest point since its introduction in 1980, Biden has ramped it up to levels last seen in 1993 under President Bill Clinton. The limit is spread unevenly between refugees from different regions, with Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia getting over half of the total admissions. Latin America and the Caribbean, which are the main sources of illegal migrants at the US southern border this year, only received 15,000 spots.
Out of the 125,000 places, 10,000 spots are unallocated and can be used to admit vetted refugees from any region. In addition, US immigration laws allow congressional Judiciary Committees to rebalance regional limits if any of the regions has unused admissions, while another one requires more.
What Does It Mean for US Taxpayers?
The White House's announcement of a nearly three-decade high for refugee admissions came on 8 October – just a day after American lawmakers managed to find a solution to avoid the US defaulting on its financial obligations – albeit a temporary one. After months-long wrangling over the debt ceiling, which the nation was due to hit on 18 October, the Democrats finally found a way to get 11 Republicans on their side to overcome a filibuster and raise the limit by $480 billion, which will only suffice until 3 December.
It is so far unclear how much of the newly acquired US debt will go to fund Biden's plan to admit 125,000 new refugees in fiscal 2022 – the debate over next year's budget still continues and not only between the two major political forces, but also within the Democratic Party itself.
However, certain predictions, albeit very rough ones can be made. It's difficult to discern how much US taxpayer money will go to fund the resettlement of refugees – procedures to help the newly arriving members of American society to adapt and become economically independent. The resettlement spending includes transportation, start-up money per refugee, plus certain welfare benefits such as Medicare and food stamps.
8 October 2021, 23:05 GMT
Some refugees do not use the welfare they are eligible for (or they are not eligible for it at all) plus many of these benefits are paid differently because they are regulated at the state rather than federal level. In addition, transportation is paid out of the State Department's coffers (not the Department of Health and Human Services which operates the Office of Refugee Resettlement) and these funds are issued as a zero-interest loan that each refugee has to pay back.
In 2017, some $545 million of the US budget was allocated for the purposes of resettling refugees before the big drop in admission numbers under Trump. The admissions ceiling was set to 50,000 that year, but some 53,716 immigrants were resettled – a rare but not unique violation of the limit. A rough calculation puts the spending at a little over $10,000 per refugee, which means that the Biden administration might require as much as $1.25 billion to resettle all refugees (should the limit be respected and not violated as was the case in 2017 or 1992). That is 0.25% of the debt ceiling increase, which was so roughly achieved, on refugee resettlement alone, as Biden plans to initiate one of the most expensive reforms in the country, whose $3.5 trillion price tag is causing debates even among Democrats themselves.