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As long as Trump’s strategy is in place, refugee flights will be canceled.

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As long as Trump's strategy is in place, refugee flights will be canceled.

 

The State Department has cancelled the flights of more than 260 refugees who were vetted, accepted, and scheduled to come to the United States in the last two weeks because they do not qualify under restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump, according to refugee resettlement agencies.

When Trump capped refugee admissions at a record low of 15,000, the limits were imposed. In a proposal sent to Congress three weeks ago, President Joe Biden suggested quadrupling refugee resettlement and repealing Trump’s restrictions.

Meanwhile, according to the agencies, the State Department, which schedules flights with resettlement agencies, booked the refugees in the expectation that Biden will have replaced Trump’s orders by now. However, after his administration informed Congress as required by statute, Biden has not made a presidential decision, and Trump’s orders have remained in effect.

The action does not require congressional approval, and previous presidents have released presidential determinations limiting refugee admissions shortly after informing Congress.

As a result, at least 264 refugees’ flights have been cancelled by the State Department, with further cancellations planned, according to resettlement agencies.

According to the resettlement agencies, the majority of the refugees are from Africa and do not qualify for entry under Trump’s restrictions, which reserved the majority of the spots for people escaping religious persecution, Iraqis who have supported US forces there, and people from Central America’s Northern Triangle.

All flights for refugees who don’t qualify under Trump’s restrictions have been cancelled until March 19, according to Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Maryland-based Jewish nonprofit that is one of nine organizations that resettles refugees in the United States.

Hetfield said, “Real lives are being impacted.” “To claim I am unhappy with the Biden administration’s treatment of refugees is an understatement.”

Many of the refugees have sold their belongings and vacated their rented homes, and are now struggling to find a new place to stay before they receive news that they will be allowed to enter the United States.

Melaku Gebretsadik, an Eritrean refugee who lives in Greeley, Colorado, was on his way to the Denver airport with flowers and presents to welcome his wife and three children when he received word that their flights had been canceled. For the past ten years, he has been waiting to see them again.

Via an interpreter, Gebretsadik said, “My heart was broken.”

His family has been informed that they will be re-booked on a flight in a few weeks, but Gebretsadik is not holding his breath.

“I’m not sure what to believe,” he admitted.

When asked about the situation on Thursday, the Biden administration offered no reason for the flight delays or cancellations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken “believes that it is very much in our DNA to be a nation that welcomes those escaping oppression, welcomes those fleeing conflict the world over,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price. It is for this reason that discriminatory travel bans were abolished.”

He said he didn’t have any updates on “our attempts to reverse some of the program’s harm” at this time.

Many are in vulnerable conditions, according to Krish O’Mara Vignarajah of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which also resettles refugees.

“After four years of draconian Trump administration policies, the Biden administration must issue its presidential determination as soon as possible to ensure that these new Americans can safely reach their new home country,” she said.

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