US to Increase Number of Refugees Allowed in, Reversing a Sharp Decline Under Trump

Melissa Etehad, LA Times, May 27, 2017

Refugees at Airport

Issa Gakwandi, of Fort Worth, Texas, (left center) kisses his wife Hawa as they escort two of their children, Shakila, 7, (left) and Lina, 4, (right), out of DFW International Airport. The family was reunited through the work of Catholic Charities after being separated for four years. Hawa and their eight children had been living in a refugee camp in Uganda. (Credit Image: © Stewart F. House/TNS/ZUMAPRESS.com)

The State Department announced that it will lift its restriction on the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States, after a steep decrease in arrivals in recent months amid President Trump’s efforts to limit entry.

In an email sent to agencies tasked with helping refugees from around the world apply for resettlement in the U.S., the State Department said that it will raise its quota from around 900 weekly refugee arrivals to approximately 1,500, refugee advocates said.

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The sudden and quiet change in the State Department’s policy will affect tens of thousands of refugees who have completed the nearly two-year-long application process but were waiting in limbo during the legal fights over Trump’s executive orders attempting to bar refugees.

The State Department’s announcement came the day after a federal appeals court upheld a nationwide injunction barring the Trump administration from enforcing the travel ban. But refugee aid groups said the department’s move was based on Congress’ approval this month of funding for refugee admission.

Last October, Congress passed a temporary government spending bill that expired at the end of April. When lawmakers recently approved a budget for the rest of this fiscal year, it included funding for 75,000 refugee admissions, similar to that in previous years.

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A recent report published by the Pew Research Center found that monthly refugee arrivals dropped in all but four states during the 2017 fiscal year. It also found refugee arrivals declined from 9,945 in October to 3,316 in April.

In the months after Trump signed his first travel ban in January, the number of weekly refugee arrivals dropped to around 400, according to data from the State Department.

Although the State Department increased the number of weekly arrivals to about 900 in April — following a court injunction in March that stopped Trump’s proposed cap of 50,000 — it was nowhere near the almost 2,000 weekly arrivals that were arriving in the months prior to January.

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