More than 715 refugees from around the world who expected to start new lives in the United States have had their flights canceled in recent weeks because President Biden has postponed an overhaul of his predecessor’s sharp limits on new refugee admissions.
Agencies that assist refugees poised to enter the country were notified by the State Department this week that all travel would be suspended until the president sets a new target for admissions this year.
Each year, the president must set a cap on the number of refugees that the United States will admit. Former President Donald J. Trump lowered that number to a historic low of 15,000 for the current fiscal year and placed new restrictions that effectively excluded most applicants from Muslim and African countries.
As a result, tens of thousands of people who have already completed the complex process for resettling in the United States have been stranded abroad, often in overcrowded refugee camps where many have been waiting for years.
“emergency” report from the State Department stated that “grave humanitarian concerns” justified the lifting of Trump administration restrictions that had prevented even approved refugees from traveling to the United States to reunite with their families. But the president has yet to officially sign off on a new number to allow that travel.
A White House spokesman did not offer a date for when the president would sign a new determination. “While no firm numbers have been finalized, the president’s view is clear,” the spokesman said in a statement. “This program will reflect the generosity and core values of the United States while benefiting from the many contributions that refugees make to our country.”
Until a new ceiling is approved, the limits imposed by Mr. Trump remain in place, and they are preventing most approved refugees from traveling, even though the overall ceiling of 15,000 has not been reached.
This is because of a series of subcategories for refugee slots created by the Trump administration. Priority has been given to Iraqis who had worked for the U.S. military and people, primarily Christians, who are facing religious persecution. The classification system disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees, and it will remain in place until Mr. Biden puts a new ceiling and classification system into place.
“Even though we have a new administration, we are still operating under the previous administration’s framework,” Ms. Sime said.