But the United States has not even come close to hitting the 125,000-person limit, in part because it simply has not had enough personnel to get through the backlog.
By the end of 2021, the United States had tallied just 11,411 refugees, the smallest number since the establishment of the refugee program. The Biden administration resettled about 25,400 refugees this past fiscal year, according to the State Department.
In interviews, senior administration officials said it was unlikely they would hit their target in the coming year.
For some applicants, time has run out.
Redi Rekab, an Eritrean widower, applied more than four years ago for his two teenage children stranded in Ethiopia to join him in Columbus, Ohio. He thought their reunion was imminent after the family submitted DNA.
Almost two years later, there had been no movement in their case. His son, Tiferi, grew impatient.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Rekab, a 54-year-old warehouse worker, said he was shocked to receive a call from his son, who said he had reached Libya and needed money to pay a smuggler for onward travel. Mr. Rekab said that he has been trying, in vain, to persuade his son to wait a little longer for approval to make a fresh start in the United States, rather than take the perilous — and often deadly — trip by sea for an uncertain future in Europe.
“The U.S. didn’t help me bring my children,” Mr. Rekab said. “But they approved people from Afghanistan and Ukraine in a very short time. It shows the U.S. doesn’t value us.”
Back in Milwaukee, Mr. Aden says his sons, who are now 21 and 22, represent a gaping hole in the life he has built in the United States. They were babies when he left Somalia and young teenagers when he started the process to bring them to the United States eight years ago. He missed their entire childhoods.