Spokane refugees anxiously awaiting policy change from Biden administration

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Biden administration is still under pressure to increase the cap on refugees allowed in the United States.

Former President Donald Trump previously set the cap at a record low of 15,000.

President Biden is expected to increase that number in early May, but not to his original campaign promise of nearly 65,000.

In the meantime, Iman Aljanabi, a refugee from Iraq currently living in Spokane, has gone seven years without seeing her son.

Aljanabi fled from Iraq because of insurgents terrorizing her family.

“Some of my relatives were kids as well as my son was kidnapped, so that was part of the reason of fleeing from Iraq,” Aljanabi said.

That’s common for these refugee families.

The program often allows one of them to leave sooner than the other, meaning they’ll have to wait years or even decades before reuniting.

Aljanabi is a U.S. citizen, but finds it hard to enjoy her freedoms without her son and his family, especially because that family is still suffering.

Her grandkids were even kidnapped for a period of time, and that left her son considering the worst with the possibility of losing his children.

“He told his wife ‘If anything happens to our children, know that we have no reason to live. We would pretty much burn ourselves to end our lives and end this misery,'” Aljanabi said regarding a conversation with her son.

These refugees often help the community fill low-skill jobs at restaurants and small businesses.

In 2016, World Relief brought 600 refugees into Spokane, compared to just 12 so far this year.

“I know of 50 jobs right now that Spokane employers cannot fill who directly asked us for, and we’ve only got 12 refugees coming so far this year,” World Relief Executive Director Mark Finney said. “We can’t provide what our workforce is demanding.”

The Biden administration is promising to change that soon with a hope of even getting cap raised to 125,000.

“Our policy has not changed on that front,” said White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki. “We’ve always wanted to reach 125,000. It’s just a matter of what we think we can get to this year.”

Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers also supports raising the cap to pre-Trump levels.

Her office sent us a statement reading, “Cathy has long supported increasing the refugee cap to 75,000 per year. She urged President Trump to set this goal back in 2019 and continues to support it today.”

Washington Senator Patty Murray also supports allowing more refugees into the U.S., and her office also provided us a statement.

“The United States has long welcomed refugees, and they have made our country stronger and more resilient,” Murray said. “I believe we need to raise our refugee resettlement numbers back to where they were prior to the Trump administration’s refugee cap – maintaining the restrictions implemented by the previous administration is unacceptable.”

She went onto say, “I’m strongly urging the administration to raise the cap as soon as possible. America should be a beacon of hope for children and families across the globe fleeing violence and persecution – let’s make sure our policies live up to those values.”

In the meantime, mothers like Iman just keep praying to see their loved ones soon.

“I don’t know what the future will be like, and I’ve fought for him to get here, but it seems like the government is not caring much,” Aljanabi said.