For Waiting Refugees, U.S. About-Face On Admissions Brings Hope

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For Waiting Refugees, U.S. About-Face On Admissions Brings Hope
One man's rollercoaster wait for his African wife as Biden Administration wavers on refugee limits.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

"It was a bad, bad, bad situation. It was something that I didn't expect."

Over the past couple months, Congolese refugee Joseph Madogo went through a roller coaster of emotions due to President Biden's about-face on refugee admission numbers.

Madogo, who resettled to the U.S. five years ago and lives in Tennessee, was expecting his wife to arrive in Memphis on March 9 from a Burundi refugee camp.

"I prepared some gifts for her, flowers, everything was set up," Madogo said. 

Diane Taussi had been cleared by the U.S. government for resettlement.

But her flight was canceled at the last minute because of President Biden's delay in fulfilling his pledge to raise the refugee cap. 

"As a man I couldn't just cry like a baby. But inside me, it was very, very, very painful," Madogo said.  

Both Madogo and Taussi have spent years in African refugee camps after fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

They are childhood friends who got married right before the pandemic.

"I went back to Africa and we got married," explained Madogo.

President Biden's delay initially turned into a broken promise as the White House announced in April it was keeping the Trump administration's record-low refugee ceiling at 15,000.

Facing a backlash, the president reversed himself on Monday by more than quadrupling the cap to 62,500 refugees for the next six months. 

But he acknowledged the U.S. is unlikely to hit that mark.

Critics say his reversal is a bow to the left and a distraction from the border crisis. But advocates rejoiced.

"It sends a clear signal to the world that we are back," said former Homeland Security official Elizabeth Neumann.

Neumann says admitting more refugees will give the U.S. more credibility on the world stage and will reduce the risk that displaced people in refugee camps become radicalized.

"We can reduce that vulnerability if we just speed up the system. It doesn't take — it shouldn't take — 10 years to resolve a case."

As for Madogo, he's once more hopeful he'll soon reunite with his wife.

"I'm so excited. I can't wait to meet my wife. President Biden, I say: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. In the name of all refugees in Africa, as one of them, I say thank you to the president."