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Afghan Refugee Resettlement in Post-Trump America

Immigration Policy Brief #129 | By: Kathryn Baron | September 19, 2021

Header photo taken from: Council on Foreign Relations

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Photo taken from: Roll Call

Policy Summary

The United States has already evacuated over 65,000 Afghans and nearly 24,000 have arrived in the US. In addition, 23,000 are on US military bases abroad and another 20,000 are waiting in other countries before continuing their travels to the US.

The Biden Administration has asked Congress for $6.5 billion in emergency funds to assist in resettlement endeavors. As of now, Afghan refugees are to receive $1,255 of government funds to help with some expenses but are not eligible for food stamps or Medicaid at this time.

California and Texas will receive the largest amount of Afghan refugees (of the US states accepting Afghan refugees); the Biden Administration is striving to bring 65,000 Afghans to the US by the end of September and an additional 30,000 in 2022. 

Policy Analysis

Most Afghans are arriving in the US under humanitarian parole rather than as refugees, so the administration can get around the Trump era lowered refugee cap (see below) and the  process could be expedited. The regular refugee process can take around 2 years, in an already backlogged system. Many will have to apply for asylum and/or reunite with family members already in the US for quicker resettlement.

Prior to the Trump Administration, there was bipartisan support in Congress for refugee resettlement and generally widespread public support. The Muslim Ban of 2017 effectively barred most refugees from Syria and Yemen and allowed for the refugee cap to be lowered from 110,000 to 15,000 annually. 

Photo taken from: Wall Street Journal

Money was also allocated to other agencies at the expense of the 9 existing refugee resettlement agencies. Until the US raises its refugee cap to pre-Trump levels, existing resettlement programs will continue to be overwhelmed and it will be increasingly difficult to resettle refugees in a timely manner.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

  • National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • Miles 4 Migrants: A charity that accepts frequent flyer mile donations to help individuals impacted by war, persecution, and/or disaster by providing flights for refugees, asylum-seekers, and their immediate family members who have legal approval for travel but cannot afford it. 
  • Protect Afghan Women: A project affiliated by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security to focus on the role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, addressing global threats, and seeking to ensure Afghan women are free from persecution.
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