Maine’s three refugee resettlement agencies have been approved to resettle double the amount of refugees in fiscal year 2024 (FY24) than they did in FY23, according to a Friday report from Maine Public.
Refugees are a separate population from the state’s asylum seekers, who are in the U.S. awaiting adjudication on their asylum application — whereas refugees are brought to the U.S. via the federal Refugee Admissions Program and must undergo screening before entering the country.
Unlike asylum seekers, refugees are allowed to work immediately upon arrival in the U.S., and can usually apply for citizenship within five years of their arrival.
President Joe Biden increased the total admissions ceilings for refugees in both FY22 and FY23 to 125,000, the highest target number in decades.
In FY23, 419 refugees were resettled in Maine, according to Maine Public — a number which the state’s resettlement agencies said will increase to 840 in FY24.
The three agencies approved to resettle refugees in Maine are Catholic Charities Maine, Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services, and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.
The director of migration at Catholic Charities Maine, Charles Mugabe, told Maine Public that the resettlement increase is part of a federal-level push, and that Catholic Charities expects to resettle 500 refugees in FY24.
“So during Fiscal Year 24, the federal government has requested all resettlement agencies to double most of the numbers that they are resettling,” Mugabe said.
Rilwan Osman, executive director of Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services in Lewiston, said they have been approved to resettle 200 refugees this year, double the 100 they resettled last year.
Osman told the taxpayer-funded news outlet that housing “has been one of our major, major, challenges that we have faced,” and that they have doubled their resettlement staff and are trying to build relationships with landlords beyond the Lewiston-Auburn area.
Osman’s organization expects to see new families arriving in Maine as soon as next week from Syria and Cambodia.
Siobhan Whalen, resettlement program director at the Jewish Community Alliance (JCA) of Southern Maine told Maine Public that her organization is looking to resettle families in smaller cities such as Waterville.
“I feel hopeful about these less traditional areas for resettlement being a space where our families can feel safe and welcome,” Whalen said.
She said the JCA is going to take in 28 refugees this month, including families from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Afghanistan, and Colombia.