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US resettled record-low number of refugees despite Biden lifting limit

The US admitted just 11,411 refugees over the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, a record low despite President Biden raising the maximum number allowed to 62,500 in May.

The number, made public by the State Department Tuesday, is more than 400 fewer than the previous low of 11,814, set in fiscal year 2020.

The number does not include at least 50,000 Afghans who have been flown into the US in recent weeks following the reconquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban. Those Afghans have been allowed into the country under a different legal status known as “humanitarian parole.”

The White House has asked Congress to change immigration law to allow Afghans brought to the US on humanitarian parole to receive the same benefits as refugees — including government benefits and automatic qualification for a green card after 12 months.

The State Department explained the low refugee figure by citing the restrictive eligibility criteria enacted by the Trump administration, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — which they said prevented case officers from conducting in-person interviews of potential refugees overseas.

Afghan refugees walk through an Afghan refugee camp at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J.AP

The Department added that it is planning a “robust resumption of interviews,” both in-person and virtually, and has requested more referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The rebuilding process is well underway and will enable us to support much increased admissions numbers in future years,” the department said in an email to the Associated Press.

Last month, the State Department informed Congress that Biden would increase the so-called “refugee cap” to 125,000 for the fiscal year which began Oct. 1. In the same report, the department estimated that just 12,500 official refugees were expected to arrive in the US in fiscal year 2021, with nearly two-thirds of that total coming from Africa.

Beginning this month, the report indicated, the US would accept up to 40,000 refugees from Africa, along with 35,000 from the Near East and South Asia — including Afghanistan — and 15,000 each from East Asia and the Latin America/Caribbean region.

Haitian migrants cross the jungle of the Darien Gap, near Acandi, Choco department, Colombia, heading to Panama.AFP via Getty Images

In April, Biden had indicated he would not override the 15,000-person cap set by his predecessor anytime this year, saying in an emergency determination that it “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.”

After Biden was criticized by members of his own party, the White House quickly reversed course and raised the cap to 62,500 on May 3, though Biden said at the time that he did not expect the U.S. would meet the new number with just four months left in the fiscal year.

With Post wires

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