The Immigration and Nationality Act or the INA defines a refugee as an alien. In general, they must have experienced persecution or should be likely to experience persecution. This persecution can be based on religious beliefs, race or nationality.
Additionally, it could also be for affiliation or membership with a given social group, or for holding a particular political belief.
Since the 1980s, the U.S.A has admitted more than 3.1 million refugees.
However, as the political climate continues to change, and parties go in and out of power, the U.S Refugee Admissions Program continues to evolve as well.
This article explores the role of the Trump Administration in facilitating these changes while evaluating the current administration’s proposal to alter the program.
Let’s get started.
Trump’s Administration and the Refugee Limit
The number of refugees to be allowed into the country, during a given year, is determined by the administration. For example, during the years 2016 and 2017, the refugee cap saw a shift from 85,000 to 110,000 under the Obama administration. Over the years, the average has been estimated at around 95,000 under both administrations.
In stark contrast, the Trump administration set the lowest cap for the refugee limit, since the commencement of the program, at 15,000, for the fiscal year of 2021. The rationale behind this was to protect the jobs of Americans that had been impacted during the pandemic.
Since the post-election shift in power, pressure has been mounting on the Biden administration to raise this cap to accommodate more refugees in the coming years.
However, given that it is, in fact, the year of the pandemic, the administration will undoubtedly face new challenges in conducting refugee interviews, and in determining how many refugees can be safely brought into the country.
So, what does Biden propose to do?
The U.S Refugee Admissions Program and Biden’s Proposed Changes
Currently, President Joe Biden aims to raise the current limit of 15,000 to 62,500 for the current fiscal year. Officially, Trump’s ceiling would be valid until the 30th of September, 2021. Biden proposes overriding this rule.
Furthermore, in the year after, he hopes to further raise the ceiling to accommodate at least 125,000 refugees. As things stand, the process for change has already begun.
Biden has submitted his report proposing these changes to Congress, as confirmed by the U.S State Department. Incidentally, Biden was also a co-sponsor during the original enactment of the program way back in the 1980s. He describes his new proposal as a way to “restore the soul” of the nation.
As things stand, the move by the Biden administration has been largely applauded. However, the date for officially overriding Trump’s decision remains unknown. Americans, along with the rest of the world, lie in wait for the next update on the changes to the U.S Refugee Admissions Program.
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