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As Biden Lifts Refugee Cap, San Diego Organizations Prepare For Influx

President Joe Biden walks over to speak to members of the media after arrivin...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: President Joe Biden walks over to speak to members of the media after arriving on the Ellipse on the National Mall after spending the weekend at Camp David, Monday, April 5, 2021, in Washington.

On Monday, the Biden administration walked back an earlier pledge to keep a Trump-era limit of 15,000 refugees in place, setting a new cap of 62,500.

San Diego has been a popular destination for refugees, welcoming around 4,000 during the last year of the Obama administration in 2016. But the area has only received 341 so far this fiscal year.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Michael Hopkins is the CEO of Jewish Family Service, one of four agencies that work with refugees locally. He believes that while the cap is lifted allowing more people into the country, it will be difficult to place that many refugees during the six months left in the fiscal year.

“Most believe that we won’t hit 62.5 [thousand] in the remainder of this fiscal year,” he told KPBS Midday Edition. “So it probably means a couple thousand for San Diego at some point.”

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Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler

The refugee system is wholly separate from the asylum system — meaning this cap wouldn’t apply to the thousands of asylum-seekers at the southern border. Instead, refugees have been living in camps outside of their home countries, many often spending years there.

Hopkins believes his organization has been gearing up for this moment.

“We have already begun the process, hiring staff, collecting furniture, etc., because we know when new families arrive they need to have a home ready for them,” he said.

Refugees have a clear path to citizenship in the U.S. — something organizations like Jewish Family Service will begin to prepare them for. Hopkins described that the biggest challenge for his organization will be working with a program that’s been in disarray for the past several years.

“The program itself has really been dismantled over the years. So just for the government, all of the screening, to make sure the folks are vetted properly, takes a while,” he said.

Jewish Family Service is looking for volunteers to help with these incoming refugees. Anyone interested can go to JFSSD.org/volunteer.

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