On World Refugee Day, International Institute continues to welcome new arrivals

U.S. pledges to welcome 125,000 refugees next year

U.S. pledges to welcome 125,000 refugees next year

The United States pledges to welcome 125,000 refugees next year, which is a level not seen in three decades. President Biden underscored that commitment in his World Refugee Day comments.

It’s a substantial increase from just a few years ago when former President Trump set the annual cap at 15,000 refugees.

“We are actually in a really exciting place right now in terms of resettling refugees because we are really rebuilding the program nationally,” said Micaela Schuneman, the senior director of Immigration and Refugee Services at the International Institute of Minnesota. “We’re at a time internationally where there are record numbers of people who have been displaced and people who are seeing refuge.”

International Institute of Minnesota has resettled more than 25,000 refugees from around the world through the years.

Currently, Schuneman said the organization is seeing an increase in people arriving from Afghanistan.

“This is a time that is a little bit challenging for people who came to the United States from Afghanistan,” she said.

Since the evacuation of the country in 2021, 1,363 Afghans have come to Minnesota under a two-year Humanitarian Parole status. That’s according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

For some, that status was set to expire this summer, so the federal government extended the deadline for another two years. As of June 9, Afghans with that temporary status can request re-parole.

“This was a really crucial step,” said Schuneman. “I think it’s just an acknowledgment that it is not safe for people to return to Afghanistan.”

According to Minnesota DHS, an additional 225 Afghans have arrived in Minnesota through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program with Refugee status since August 2021. Another 86 Afghans have arrived in Minnesota with Special Immigrant Visa Status. Both statuses carry a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

International Institute of Minnesota also continues to see new arrivals from Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“As part of welcoming our new arrivals, we are also able to offer them employment and career pathways,” said Schuneman. “There are large shortages in the healthcare industry and long-term care facilities, and a lot of the graduates in our nursing assistant program are taking those positions and working in long-term care facilities.”

Alice Mutuyimana has been a nursing assistant for M Health Fairview for two years after undergoing CNA training at International Institute.

“It’s really amazing,” she said. “Still now, I am happy for that.”

She added, “When we came here, we started asking how we can get employed.”

She arrived in the United States in 2019 with her husband and two daughters. Her family fled the Democratic Republic of Congo when she was three years old.

Mutuyimana and her family spent 23 years in a refugee camp, hoping each day they would be chosen for resettlement.

“There was a center where we always wake up in the morning to see if the name of the household member is there,” she said. “Being chosen was chance.”

Even after being selected, it took five years of paperwork, interviews and evaluations before they could come to the United States.

She described arriving in America as “a dream.”

She and her husband were able to buy a home this year.