This past month, President Biden proposed an increase in the nation’s refugee ceiling from 15,000 to 125,000. The U.S.’s refugee ceiling is a number outlining the maximum number of refugees that may be accepted into the US within a fiscal year. This is incredibly hopeful for refugee resettlement organizations like NICE, and for those awaiting the admittance of their loved ones into the United States.
However, this proposed policy will not spark immediate change. The COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of refugee resettlement worldwide, as well as policies passed during the previous four years, will continue to have effects. When asked about her thoughts on the updated ceiling, Cindy Cunningham, NICE’s Chief Finance, Operations and Resettlement Officer, Operations & Resettlement, said “for the Resettlement team, and for NICE, the story is one of opportunity. Over the last 4 years, the infrastructure for Resettlement has been dismantled as the number of arrivals were reduced. NICE, along with most other Resettlement agencies in the U.S., has reduced staff in response.” NICE looks forward to being able to increase the number of refugees we are able to assist as our organization receives more support.
The past year specifically has been difficult for refugee resettlement, but many remain hopeful, even in the face of a pandemic and government restrictions in the movement of people. Aisha White, Nashville International Center for Empowerment’s Immigration Manager is optimistic about this policy change, stating “overall, I think people are more hopeful about the new administration and the immigration process for refugees. But 2020 was a tough year for everyone. Last year we only filed 2 I-730s the entire year.” I-730s are family reunification applications for refugees who have been in the country less than 2 years, and in the past NICE filed about 18 I-730 applications per year. She also acknowledged that it may be some time before NICE is able to begin receiving more refugees, as there is currently a large quantity of applications that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office will have to process.
We look forward to reuniting more families and providing safety for those fleeing dangerous situations. Aisha White anticipates an increase in family reunification applications as more refugees arrive, stating “as for NICE’s immigration department, once there are more refugees being resettled, we will start to see more I-730s being filed. And as new refugees arrive, we anticipate the number of applications will just keep increasing.” Cindy Cunningham echoes Aisha’s sentiments, explaining “almost all our new arrivals are joining with other family members who already live here. Our clients have been waiting years for their friends and loved ones to be joined with them. There is a lot of excitement in the community generated by this new found hope that the time for reunification is almost upon us.”
For NICE, increasing the number of new arrivals will provide increased financial resources, allowing us to add more staff to support our Resettlement team. In addition, Cindy Cunningham states that “there will also be a positive impact on our Employment programs and our Case Management Programs. Newly arriving refugees fill a vital role in providing employers with a source of highly motivated, hard-working employees, filling essential roles which are difficult to find candidates for when unemployment is low.”