As the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan evinces the need for responsive refugee resettlement efforts and following reports that President Biden will fulfill his commitment to set the annual refugee admissions ceiling at 125,000, the International Rescue Committee calls on the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that ensures all Afghan evacuees are eligible for resettlement services and are provided a pathway to legal permanent residency. 

As the U.S. welcomes Afghan refugees to their new communities, it is critical that they have access to the same necessary resources and opportunities to transition successfully to life in the U.S. as all resettled refugees. Congress must ensure both provisions are included in the FY22 Continuing Resolution introduced this week in the House. 

While the proposed admissions increase to 125,000 refugees is significant first step, the IRC is also renewing its call to the Biden Administration ahead of this year’s Presidential Determination to dedicate efforts to resource and modernize the USRAP to ensure effective and efficient processing; strengthen reception and integration services; and increase community participation in resettlement. 

Resettlement agencies like the IRC are witnessing a groundswell of support from the American public. The IRC has seen a 47 percent increase in volunteer applications in this past month compared to the same timeframe last year. Recent polling by CBS News/YouGov shows that 81 percent of Americans say the U.S. should help its Afghan allies come to the U.S. and an earlier poll this year that reveals 56 percent of Americans believe that the number the U.S. should resettle each year be at minimum of 95,000, the bipartisan average admissions cap from 1980 to 2016. 

The response by elected leaders across the country has been overwhelmingly in support of welcoming Afghans. This includes bipartisan support from 37 governors, among them 19 Republicans, and support from the U.S. Conference of Mayors - exhibiting the known bipartisan support for welcoming refugees that must be answered with a robust and flexible refugee admissions program. The private sector has also shown unprecedented support for resettlement efforts. The IRC's private sector partners and foundations are stepping up to support refugees through financial and in-kind commitments as hundreds of employers also look to refugees for their indispensible professional skill sets

Hans Van de Weerd, Vice President of Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration at the IRC, said:

“The dramatic escalation in needs in Afghanistan over the past several weeks is a strong testament to the need for a robust U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. It is not the first time in history that the U.S. government has opened its doors in light of burgeoning humanitarian crises: following the Vietnam War, President Jimmy Carter set the refugee admissions cap to 231,700 - an all-time high - to welcome thousands of Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian refugees. These decisions helped save lives and contributed to the fabric of American societies in the process. 

“President Biden must leverage the USRAP, like his bipartisan predecessors, to respond quickly and effectively to growing global humanitarian needs by quickly setting this ambitious refugee admissions level. The crisis in Afghanistan - and a record of nearly 83 million displaced around the world - is a clarion call for nothing less than bold and historic action.

“Furthermore, across the country, there is historic, bipartisan public support for welcoming Afghans. In this moment of unified support for Afghan refugees, Congress must pass necessary legislative measures via the Continuing Resolution without delay to give our recently arrived neighbors the tools they need to thrive in their new communities. US humanitarian leadership is needed across the full swathe of protection pathways.”