September 29, 2023 — The IRC welcomes the Biden administration’s commitment to maintaining the refugee admissions target at 125,000 for this new fiscal year given historic global needs with 110 million people forcibly displaced worldwide and families separated due to crises and conflicts. This decision recognizes the immense historic social, economic, and cultural contributions new waves of Americans have had and continues the long bipartisan tradition of welcome in the United States.
The IRC also applauds efforts by the Biden administration to build a more fair, accessible program by improving processing times through technology-driven efficiencies and prioritizing refugees who have been waiting years for a decision on their case. We welcome new approaches that are providing better access to resettlement for refugees in hard-to-reach locations. Currently, 76% of the worldwide refugee population is hosted in low- to middle-income countries, yet fewer than 1% of the world’s refugees will have the opportunity for resettlement. The U.S. should continue leveraging its commitment to refugee populations by encouraging upper-income hosting countries to welcome more refugees through diplomatic forums and to secure refugee-friendly policies that will provide access to jobs, education, and other critical services.
With estimated resettlement needs in the Americas in 2024 increased by 38 percent over this year, we commend the additional allocation of admission slots for the Western Hemisphere. The IRC hopes to see the successful operationalization of the novel Safe Mobility Offices (SMOs) and expanded participation of additional countries to build on the existing partnerships with Spain and Canada. The Administration should ensure this important innovation in the Western Hemisphere is expanded and also offered in other regions of the world. These positive steps also need to be paired with a functioning, fair, and humane asylum system at the Southern U.S. border.
The Biden Administration’s multiple initiatives to expand complementary pathways to protection are a meaningful step toward fulfilling the vision of the Global Compact on Refugees. Engaging communities in the act of welcome and integration of newcomers provides capacity expanding benefits to the resettlement program, engages sponsors in meaningful ways, reunites families, and provides great benefits to local communities. The IRC is supporting Welcome Corps as a Private Sponsor Organization, in addition to being a Welcome Corps consortium partner conducting matching and placement between interested sponsors and refugees. At the same time, as these innovations are piloted, it is critical that we guard against a future in which complementary pathways supplant the existing resettlement system, undermining its humanitarian imperative. The IRC urges the Biden Administration to differentiate between these protection tracks in its reporting and resource new pathways with dedicated referral infrastructure.
Hans Van de Weerd, Senior Vice President for Resettlement, Asylum, and Integration (RAI) at the IRC, said:
“We celebrate America’s continued commitment to protect the most vulnerable and encourage the Biden Administration and congressional leaders to ensure the resilience of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program by maintaining resettlement infrastructure at predictable levels to be able to respond to urgent and unforeseen displacement crises.
“Not doing so would put at risk U.S. global leadership with profound implications for America’s foreign policy, national security, and economic interests. Refugees have been shown to make outsized contributions to the U.S. economy through their high rate of entrepreneurship and business ownership, tax payments, and meeting America’s labor force needs due to an aging population.
“The Biden administration’s new initiatives can help America meet its FY24 refugee admissions target. Meanwhile, Congress should also invest in growing domestic capacity by ensuring funding for resettlement agencies keeps up with economic and housing inflation. The national housing shortage limits housing options for all Americans, including refugees, and more creative solutions are necessary to address this national issue.”