JOHN DERBYSHIRE: Biden’s Refugee Numbers Paradox, And His Nation-Wrecking Welcome Corps
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Earlier: Refugee Resettlement Watch—Remembering A Great Blog.

Here’s a funny thing about current refugee resettlement. With the Biden administration’s open-door policies in effect, you might suppose that the number of refugees admitted for resettlement here has ballooned along with all other immigration categories.

Wrong! So far this fiscal year 2023—remember that fiscal 2023 started last October 1st—just a bit more than 18,000 refugees have been admitted for resettlement, compared with annual numbers in the 50, 60, or 70 thousands for much of this century so far.

All right, but we’re only halfway through the fiscal year. How about the last complete fiscal year: fiscal 2022, from October ’21 to last September? Total admitted: 25½ thousand.

That’s only a tad more than the number for fiscal 2018 when Donald Trump was president the entire fiscal year. It’s actually fewer than in fiscal 2019, another entirely Trump year.

Say what? Biden admitted fewer refugees in Fiscal 2022 than Trump did in fiscal 2019? Incredible, huh?

Here’s something even more incredible: That low number under Biden for 2022 was way, wa-a-a-ay lower than the ceiling. Let me explain about the ceiling.

Under federal law—precisely, the 1980 Refugee Act—the President can set an annual ceiling for refugee resettlement numbers. The Act actually says ”the President, in consultation with Congress,” but the ceiling number is basically in the President’s gift.

Here, expressed in thousands, are the ceiling numbers each year set by President Trump: 50, 45, 30, 18. Here are the ceiling numbers, also in thousands, set so far by Biden: 62½, 125, 125.

You getting this? Biden’s only admitting for resettlement around twenty percent of the number he’s allowed to by the ceiling he set. Trump was never that stingy. At his stingiest, fiscal 2018, Trump admitted half the ceiling number.

So what’s going on here? What’s going on is system overload. Quote from Nayla Rush,  writing at the CIS website last October

The border crisis and its illegal crossings, along with other new entrants in need of processing and assistance, such as Afghan and Ukrainian parolees, are overwhelming the system and diverting federal resources away from refugees in need of resettlement.
[Low Refugee Resettlement Admissions Under Biden: Don’t Point to Trump, October 7, 2022]

That word ”parolees” needs explaining. The 1952 Immigration Act allowed the administration to give entry rights to particular people on a case-by-case basis even when that person didn’t meet any of the criteria for legal entry. That’s parole.

The ink was hardly dry on the 1952 Act before administrations started abusing their parole authority to let in favored groups for settlement—Hungarians fleeing after the 1956 uprising, for example.

That tradition of abusing parole has continued right down to the present day, in spite of occasional efforts by Congress to restrain it. Hence the phrase ”Afghan and Ukrainian parolees” in that quote I just gave you. Yes, they’re coming in on parole, hundreds of thousands of them.

And for administrative purposes that is totally separate from the formal refugee resettlement machinery. That machinery is worked by the State Department in co-ordination with the UNHCR, the refugee arm of the United Nations.

The UNHCR manages refugee issues worldwide. It decides who is a legitimate refugee and which of three categories each refugee falls into.

  • Category 1:  Can safely return to his country of origin.
  • Category 2:  Can’t safely return to country of origin but can safely stay where they currently are, usually some country right adjacent to the one they fled from.
  • Category 3:  Can’t safely return to country of origin or safely stay where they currently are. Should be resettled in some third country.

Category 3 seems to be around ten percent of total refugees. That’s the pool that UNHCR hands off to our State Department from which to choose refugees for resettlement here.

So there’s a formal, international process behind our refugee resettlement policy. The lucky refugees accepted for resettlement here get a few initial weeks of support from the federal government, after which they are handed off to those VOLAGs that Ann Corcoran wrote about so scathingly on Refugee Resettlement Watch: the voluntary agencies with reassuringly churchy-sounding names—Episcopal Migration Ministries, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Church World Service, and the rest, all of them of course sucking powerfully on the federal teat—to be precise, on the State Department budget. That’s the Eric Hoffer prediction I've referred to earlier.

Once settled here the refugee has the right to work and to get a Green Card; then, after five years in the country, to apply for citizenship.

That’s all much too cumbersome and limited for the Biden administration’s purposes. Just granting mass parole to everyone who shows up is easier. What with the Afghans, the Ukrainians, and the floods of illegal entrants across our southern border, however, the number of parolees is overwhelming the entire system, leaving insufficient resources for the proper refugee resettlement program.

That’s why Ol’ Joe is admitting so many fewer refugees than the ceiling allows him to. He’s actually admitting far more—hundreds of thousands more—just not through the formal State Department–plus-UNHCR refugee program. For the parolees it works out just the same: federal aid, work permits, green cards.

Biden administration hasn’t been content to just bypass the formal refugee resettlement process, they have also undermined it.

The key phrase here is: Welcome Corps. That’s ”welcome” as in ”Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome.”  

The Welcome Corps was launched back in January this year by our Secretary of State Antony Blinken. So what is it?

First, a quick recap of the refugee resettlement program.

Candidates for resettlement as refugees in the USA are identified by the UNHCR. Our State Department, with one eye on the ceiling number set by the President, taps some subset of the UNHCR recommendations, admits them for settlement in this country, and supports them for the first few weeks they’re here.

Then State hands the refugees off to those VOLAGS with the churchy names. They get work permits and Green Cards, and in the fulness of time apply for citizenship.

The Welcome Corps liberalizes all that. Instead of UNHCR and the State Department picking refugees for settlement, private persons and groups of private persons can pick them.

That doesn’t mean a complete privatization of the process. Lots of taxpayer money will still be spent on refugees. The privatization is partial, in two key areas: (1) selecting refugees, and (2) those initial weeks of support before the VOLAGs take over. The sponsoring person or private group has to fund the initial 90 days, that’s all.

Notice how carefully I’ve been saying ”private person,” not ”private citizen” in reference to those sponsoring refugees. A worrisome feature of this Welcome Corps—a problematic feature, if you don’t mind some woke jargon—is that you don’t need to be a citizen to sponsor someone for refugee status. You only need to be a legal resident with a Green Card—a Resident Alien, as it used to say on my own Green Card.

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to serve in the Marine Corps? I forget. Whatever: you don’t have to be a citizen to serve in the Welcome Corps. You can in fact be a refugee yourself, a Welcome Corps beneficiary, once you’ve gotten your Green Card after a few months in the country.

So the Welcome Corps basically adds a whole new dimension of chain migration to our immigration system. Ahmed, Kofi, or José gets here on a Welcome Corps sponsorship; acquires a Green Card; declares his buddy Mohammed, Kwesi, or Jorge—someone utterly unknown to UNHCR or the State Department—to be a refugee; and sponsors him for settlement.

You’re bound to suspect that the Welcome Corps adds something else to our immigration system: lots of new opportunities for graft and corruption. Secretary Blinken, in his January announcement of the program, gushed about, quote:

harnessing the energy and talents of Americans from all walks of life desiring to serve as private sponsors—ranging from members of faith and civic groups, veterans, diaspora communities, businesses, colleges and universities, and more.

Prior to hearing about the Welcome Corps I would never have believed that our federal government could do anything to make the immigration system worse than it was up to mid-January. To further wreck something already totally wrecked requires a special kind of genius, evil genius. Well done, lads.


John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

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