Awareness - May 10 2021 - We Welcome Refugees

Awareness - May 10 2021

President Biden signed a revised Presidential Determination, raising the refugee ceiling to 62,500

Two weeks after facing backlash from advocates and fellow Democrats for retaining the Trump administration’s historically low refugee admissions goal of 15,000, President Biden signed a new order on May 3rd, raising the refugee ceiling to the promised 62,500 for the remainder of this fiscal year. President Biden released a statement the same day clarifying that they do not expect to meet the goal this year, but, “It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin.” 

The number of unaccompanied children in US custody appears to be leveling out as fewer children were held in CBP facilities, and more children were released to sponsors

As of Thursday, May 6th, there were a total of 22,194 unaccompanied children held in government custody with 631 in CBP facilities and 21,563 under the care of HHS. In recent weeks CBP has been more successful in transferring unaccompanied children to the custody of ORR (which is housed under HHS) in the timely manner required by law. Slower progress has been made in reuniting these children with family members and releasing them from the ORR shelters. However, the number of children released from HHS began to rise at the end of last week in a hopeful trend toward the goal of children being placed in families rather than institutional settings.


Concerns continue to grow about unaccompanied children in temporary ORR shelters

While conditions seem to have improved as overcrowding in CBP shelters has reduced, there is concern that problems have now transferred to the increasingly full HHS temporary shelters. The New York Times reported on Friday that these shelters are 80% full, and HHS is taking about a month to transfer the children out of their custody and into the care of family members or sponsors. The Dallas Morning News reported that conditions in the Dallas convention center, one such temporary shelter for unaccompanied children, are “inadequate and depressing for the children.” Volunteers and contract workers have raised concerns that children in the shelter are suffering from anxiety and depression, and are living for too long in conditions similar to a jail, with those in Dallas even limited to 10 minutes on the phone with their families per week. 

This Explainer from the National Immigration Forum offers an in-depth look at the different types of facilities housing unaccompanied children.


The first 4 families were reunited by the new family separation task force

In more positive news, the first 4 families were reunited by the family separation task force last week. The families were allowed to enter the U.S. to reunite with their children after being separated as far back as 2017 under the former administration’s “Zero Tolerance Policy.” 

As joyful videos of family reunions have surfaced, we rejoice with these families who are together again, but are mindful of the over 1,000 more who are still separated.