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Biden retracts refugee policy, which affects mid-Missourians

This story originally appeared on KOMU. You can view the full story on their website: KOMU

COLUMBIA – President Joe Biden walked-back a promise to increase the cap on the number of refugees that will be allowed into the United States this year.

The announcement is crushing for families in mid-Missouri who have family members vetted to join them, whose flights were canceled as President Biden refuses to increase the number of refugees allowed into the country.

In February, Biden announced he would raise the cap for the number of refugees allowed into the country, from 15,000 to 125,000 starting October 2021. Yet, he still hasn’t signed what is called a presidential determination that would actually put the policy into place. According to NBC News, the paperwork is usually signed shortly after a policy announcement.

According to an analysis by the International Rescue Committee, Biden is on track to accept the fewest refugees this year of any modern president. So far, 2,050 refugees has been admitted to the nation.

Samantha Moog, Director of Refugee Resettlement Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, helps all refugees coming to mid-Missouri relocate to the US. She said they’ve seen record lows of refugees coming to mid-Missouri.

“In 2016, when the refugee ceiling was at 85,000, nationwide, our office here in Columbia… we resettled 229 individuals that year,” Moog said.  “Last year, we resettled 34 individuals when the ceiling was at 18,000.  And here in 2021, our fiscal year 2021, we hit our halfway mark through the year at the beginning of April, and we’ve resettled only one individual, and so it has had really profound impact on the local refugee community.”

Bigrimana Nguweneza and her aunt, Migombano Mutesi, have been waiting for family members to join them in Columbia for months. She was weeks away from being reunited when her March flight was canceled. Family members said, through a translator, they’re not sure why their relative’s arrival is being delayed. A translator spoke for the two women. 

“The most difficult thing about the whole process is the fact that they don’t know why, and they have no place to get that information.  And you know, all they can do is wait.”

On Friday, Biden announced he would raise the cap for the number of refugees allowed into the country next month. This puts the prospect of Nguweneza and Mutesi reuniting with their 13 family members closer.

Minlion Redamwang waited six years to come to America from a refugee camp in Malaysia after fleeing his home country of Burma. He originally relocated to Illinois and recently moved to Columbia with his wife and two children.

“Here we have a very comfortable life and we have pity for them. If possible, immediately they need to join us… I believe that is the best way,” Redamwang said.

He said the current political situation in Myanmar makes increasing the pace of refugee settlements more important. Despite not raising the cap on refugees allowed into the country, Biden did expand the opportunities for refugees to relocate from Muslim-majority countries.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that Biden’s “directive Friday has been the subject of some confusion,” and said that “we expect the president to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.

Moog said lower numbers of refugees coming through their office now, means less funding to help other families in the future. Unless, they can get support from the community.