The Biden administration plans expedited processing for Afghans in Qatar
Last week government officials announced a new processing system that would involve flying Afghans to Qatar for expedited refugee processing. The proposed processing hub at the U.S. Army Base Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar will help SIV applicants who are later in the process, as well as at-risk Afghans with family in the United States. This expedited process will reportedly not affect security processing. Applicants will still receive stringent vetting, just in a more streamlined manner.
This new program could offer significant benefits for Afghans in danger, especially considering the discouraging number of denials for those who have sought protection under the current option of humanitarian parole. Of over 40,000 parole requests from Afghanistan since July, there have been 160 approved and 930 denied as of last Tuesday. This article from the American Immigration Council details the concerns over these large-scale denials in the face of such a clear humanitarian crisis. Just last week there were reports of journalists and women’s rights activists being detained or abducted by the Taliban, demonstrating the severe risk posed to those who have worked with international governments, media, and civil rights groups.
Refugee admissions fell for the third consecutive month
Updated January refugee admissions data showed dropping admissions numbers for the third month in a row with only 1,094 refugees and 169 SIVs admitted. Despite President Biden’s promise to raise the refugee ceiling to 125,000 for this fiscal year, the number of refugees actually arriving remains at historic lows. For comparison, President Obama’s average over 8 years was 6,000 per month and President Trump’s average over 4 years was 2,000 per month. Meanwhile after the first full year in office, President Biden is at a monthly average of 1,000.
Our partners at the National Immigration Forum have been calling for the administration to rebuild the refugee pipeline by bolstering infrastructure, strengthening agency capacity, oversight, and transparency, allocating more resources, and establishing more expansive referral pathways. It is clear that maintaining the status quo will not be sufficient to meet resettlement goals, and the Biden administration will need to act swiftly to prevent yet another year of admissions far below both the ceiling and historic averages.
States feel the effects of decreased migration as labor shortages continue
Last week we shared how the pandemic provided an effective case study on how decreasing the number of immigrant workers does not produce better outcomes for domestic workers. While labor shortages are being reported across the United States, some states who have historically relied heavily on immigrant labor are especially feeling the loss. The states who receive the most immigrants - Florida, Texas, New York, California, and Massachusetts - saw a drop of nearly 50% in net international migration from 2020 to 2021.
Kelsey Erickson Streufert with the Texas Restaurant Association has called for increased immigration to address severe staffing shortages in the restaurant industry. Border Report reported her statement that, “Immigration reform is probably the closest thing to a silver bullet, because it gives us the ability to bring a significant number of new employees online very quickly.” The CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Suzanne Clark, has made similar comments, including calls to “double the number of people legally immigrating to the U.S.” Meanwhile advocates in Georgia are calling for the state to increase access to training and education for immigrants in their state, which they argue could help fill the gap in the need for jobs.
Chart from Census.Gov. Accessed February 14, 2022.