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Biden raises refugee cap, local organizations need support

Updated: May. 3, 2021 at 11:00 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tens of thousands of refugees will soon be able to resettle in the U.S.

Monday afternoon, the Biden administration formally raised the Trump-era refugee cap of 15,000 people to 62,500 people (for fiscal year 2021). It comes after intense pressure from supporters.

It’s a welcome change for the Iskashitaa Refugee Network.

“The United States is one of some 32 countries that accept refugees,” said Iskashitaa founder, Dr. Barbara Eiswerth. “We are not alone in this endeavor, but we used to be the world leader.”

However, she says that is no longer the case after years of cuts to the resettlement program. Dr. Eiswerth says resources have dwindled with so few refugees flying to Tucson.

“Which means so few dollars associated with refugees,” she said. “We have had to close offices, we have lost personnel – experienced personnel – and we have had to put programs on hiatus.”

Dr. Eiswerth says it will take time and a lot of support to regain the lost services.

Through programs like fruit harvesting, Iskashitaa builds a sense of community.

“We are going to have a lot of work to do because many people are going to need support, many people are going to need assistance,” said Randiesia Fletcher, the director of poverty alleviation at the Refugee Resource Center in Tucson. “We don’t want them to be in a system where they are trapped in poverty for the rest of their lives. We want them to be able to be sustainable.”

The Refugee Resource Center provides crucial services such as housing, education and job training.

Fletcher says refugees bring a lot of value, they just need help transferring their skills to best fit the needs of Southern Arizona.

“I just think about how I grew up,” said Fletcher. “I grew up homeless, I grew up on Skid Row next to these tent cities. Imagining how I lived and grew up and how difficult it was and to understand people in impoverished situations, I can’t help but be compassionate and we should all be compassionate.”

“The average refugee spends 17 years warehoused in a refugee camp,” said Dr. Eiswerth. “This really is lifesaving for many people.”

Now more than ever, refugee organizations are in need of volunteers and donations.

For information on how to help Iskashitaa, click HERE.

To help the Refugee Resource Center, email refugeeresourceaz@gmail.com

To be connected to other local refugee organizations, click HERE.

President Biden plans to increase the cap further to 125,000 refugees in 2022.

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