Columbus Activists Hope President Biden Will Rebuild Refugee Resettlement Programs
Protesters gathered outside the Central Ohio offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday, calling on the agency to stay deportations of two women who have been living in sanctuary in Columbus for years.
After years of cuts and crackdowns under President Trump, immigrants rights activists are hopeful that the Biden administration will mean fewer deportations and a larger number of refugees settling in Columbus and the rest of the country.
Former President Trump limited the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to lows of 15,000 a year. During the campaign, President Joe Biden promised to raise that to 125,000.
Angie Plummer, executive director of Community Refugee and Immigration Services, says that number is aspirational.
“The refugee processing pipeline has been severely damaged, there’s a lot that needs to be rebuilt," Plummer says. "So we’re not anticipating that huge number, certainly not this fiscal year."
Plummer says that various bans from the Trump administration – such as the travel ban on mostly-Muslim countries – has “ground the machinery to a halt.”
“If there’s no one conducting the interviews or doing the background checks, then cases don’t move forward,” Plummer adds.
And that delay, she says, has a human toll. On Thursday night, Plummer and others greeted a 4-and-a-half-year-old girl who had been separated from her parents for four years.
“It was really bittersweet to see her finally with her family, but to know she spent those really important formative years away from them,” Plummer says. “And they can’t get that time back. So my hope is the new administration will prioritize redressing the harm that’s been done to these families.”