Broken by Trump, US refugee program aims to return stronger

Syrian refugee Mahmoud Mansour, 47, helps his youngest daughter Sahar, 8, with her homework at his rented apartment in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden has vowed to restore America's place as a world leader in offering sanctuary to the oppressed by raising the cap on the number of refugees allowed in each year. Mansour's family had completed the work to go to the United States when the Trump administration issued its travel ban barring people from Syria indefinitely and suspending the refugee program for 120 days. (AP Photo/Omar Akour)

Krish Vignarajah has been in survival mode for four years as the Trump administration slashed refugee admissions by 85%. She's had to close a third of her resettlement agency's 48 offices and lay off more than 120 employees, some with decades of experience.

Now, she's scrambling to not only rehire staff but double the capacity of her Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, an expansion not seen since the agency scaled up for the wave of refugees that arrived after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

All nine U.S. resettlement agencies are experiencing the whiplash. They're gearing up to handle 125,000 refugees this year and possibly more after that if President Joe Biden makes good on his promise to restore the number of people able to create new lives in America after fleeing persecution or war.

Agencies