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Refugee resettlement in South Dakota declining

January 10, 2022 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The agency that oversees refugee resettlement in South Dakota says there has been a noticeable decline in the number of people resettling in the state over the last few years.

South Dakota welcomed 52 refugees in 2021, compared to 439 in 2016, according the Lutheran Social Services’ annual report on resettlement. More than half of the people resettling in the state last year came from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa.

Lutheran Social Service president Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen says an international slowdown in application processing the past four to five years has caused the low number of arrivals, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

Kiesow-Knudsen says the process for a refugee who is applying for resettlement in the U.S. takes anywhere between 18 months to two years to get through the background check and screening process.

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“If you compare the number of arrivals in South Dakota with the number of arrivals into the country as a whole, you can see a similar decrease,” Kiesow-Knudsen said. “And so basically it just has to do with the presidential administration in terms of how they’ve managed the refugee resettlement program.”

The U.S. State Department manages the Refugee Resettlement Program, and states can opt into participating. Every state except Wyoming currently has participating agencies.

Each year in October, the president decides on the maximum number of refugees the country will accept in the following year. In 2020, President Donald Trump set the maximum to 18,000, and then in 2021, President Joe Biden increased the maximum to 62,500. The current threshold is 125,000 for 2022.