Refugee advocates are running out of patience with President Joe Biden’s administration, as their high hopes for progress after four years of hostility from former President Donald Trump curdle into a belief the Biden White House is more concerned with avoiding GOP attacks than with helping vulnerable people overseas.
The ongoing chaos surrounding Kabul Airport has driven home the administration’s missteps and lack of progress on refugee issues. The United States has accepted just over 6,000 refugees this calendar year, far closer to Trump-era totals than to the more than 80,000 refugees admitted in the final year of President Barack Obama’s administration.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, along with refugee groups, have spent the past week blasting the White House for its handling of evacuations from Afghanistan, and for not moving fast enough to save refugees and other vulnerable groups trapped inside the country.
There are currently more than 17,000 Afghan nationals — as well as an estimated 53,000 of their family members — awaiting visa approval through the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) program. The U.S. brought over approximately 2,300 Afghans as part of the program from January to July, and another 2,000 over the last week.
The White House says it has cut the time necessary to approve SIV visas in half, and has issued more than 5,500 between April and July. But advocates say it needs to move faster.