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Under Biden, Idaho center to begin resettling more refugees

| May 17, 2021 2:30 PM

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho refugee center plans to begin helping three times as many people resettle in the U.S. under new refugee policies recently announced by the Biden administration that increase the annual admissions cap.

The College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center in Twin Falls intends to resettle up to 300 people a year, center director Zeze Rwasama told the Times-News.

President Joe Biden announced plans on May 3 to increase the annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 this fiscal year, with a goal of increasing to 125,000 for next year. The fiscal year runs through September.

These caps are major hikes from former President Donald Trump's policies, which slashed the national refugee cap to 15,000.

Under the Trump administration, Rwasama said that the number of people the center helped dropped from 300 per year to about 100. The center's budget was also reduced from about $1.1 million to $500,000, since its funding is proportional to the number of refugees it resettles.

Budget cuts and lower refugee caps required the center lay off staff and begin shifting resources to help people already settled in Twin Falls through grant-funded English and career advancement programs, Rwasama said. The center plans to keep these new programs in place as it rebuilds capacity to 300 resettlements a year.

Biden's announcement of the increased annual admission cap came after widespread backlash over a White House memo in April that suggested the president would keep the cap at Trump-era levels.

The center has helped refugees from countries around the world resettle in the surrounding region since 1980. During this fiscal year, the center has helped 21 people establish lives in Twin Falls.