The Refugee Admissions Freeze Is Over

The Biden Administration temporarily paused the admission of refugees last year but reopened the admissions process to millions of refugees worldwide on January 11th. Here's what you should know.

The Freeze

The admissions freeze was put in place after the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The collapse of Afghanistan and the takeover by the Taliban led hundreds of thousands to evacuate the country in search of a safer life.

Resettlement of the over 55,000 Afghans took time, and the federal government froze refugee admissions for other groups to handle the crisis. Now, only 20,500 Afghan refugees need to be resettled, and while resettlement has taken a toll, the government has decided to open up the refugee program once more.

Field offices around the country are recovering from understaffing and low volunteer numbers, leading many legislators to believe that the time to end the freeze is now. Overall, USCIS offices have recovered from pandemic staffing issues and severe processing delays. There are still problems plaguing the immigration system, but refugees will enter the United States once again.


In some cases, large groups of refugees fleeing from war or natural disasters need to be resettled in a place where they can thrive. The resettlement process can be more or less straightforward due to a number of reasons, including:

  • The number of refugees
  • The capacity of local municipalities
  • Natural resources
  • Human resources
  • Infrastructure
  • Federal funding

All of these factors play a huge role in the resettlement process. There may not be issues if there are thousands of refugees and the immigration system is strong. However, suppose there are thousands of refugees to resettle when there are staffing and funding issues. In that case, it puts stress on everyone from the federal government to volunteer agencies that partner with the USCIS and Department of State.

Another reason why resettlement was especially difficult in 2021 is due to the previous administration. During the Trump era, the refugee program was reduced to such a degree that many admissions offices laid off their workers and shut down. They were not prepared for the onslaught of Afghan refugees or any refugees for that matter.

Local Efforts

The backbone of refugee resettlement is local immigration efforts. These local volunteer organizations help connect refugees with resources to help them adjust to living in the United States and get the things they need to thrive.

In most cases, these local organizations work alongside federal agencies and state-run organizations to provide support during the relocation process. They help refugees find housing, education opportunities, and healthcare when needed.

Like many of the federal offices, these volunteer organizations also experienced hardship during 2020 and 2021. While they receive funding from donations and/or state programs, these organizations suffered volunteer shortages due to the pandemic and the lack of refugees to resettle.

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told journalists,

"We can continue resettling Afghan families off of U.S. military facilities, and we can resume the work of welcome for refugees and other nationalities arriving from abroad. The human impact can't be understated."

Refugee Resources

If you or a loved one are refugees to the United States, Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. can help. Our legal team has over 50 years of combined experience to put toward your case. We have helped countless clients through the refugee and resettlement process, and we provide compassionate counsel to those who need it most.

Contact Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. today for more information.