The White House has announced that the Biden administration would lift the refugee quota to 62,500 people this fiscal year, following widespread criticism last month when President Joe Biden kept the lower Trump-era limit in place.
“I am revising the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year,” Biden said in a lengthy statement Monday. “This erases the historically low number set by the previous administration of 15,000, which did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”
In line with a promise he made in his first foreign policy address at the State Department, Biden said he expects to set a target of 125,000 refugee admissions for the fiscal year 2022.
The administration has returned to its original plan, which was presented in February, with Monday’s announcement. Last month, the administration unexpectedly changed course, announcing that Biden would sign an emergency determination keeping the refugee limit at 15,000 for this year, rather than raising it as he had promised. The decision drew immediate criticism from refugee advocacy organizations and Democratic lawmakers who were irritated by the abrupt change.
Monday, Biden said taking action on the cap will “remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin.”
“The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year,” the President continued. “We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway.”
Biden also said his goal of 125,000 refugee admissions within the first fiscal year of his presidency “will still be hard to hit.”
Biden also stated that his target of 125,000 refugee admissions in his first fiscal year in office “would still be difficult to achieve.”
“It’s possible that we won’t make it the first year. But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully-vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries,” he continued. Refugee caps are often regarded as a goal to be met.
According to the Refugee Processing Center, which is part of the State Department, only 2,050 refugees had been admitted to the United States this fiscal year under Trump’s 15,000 limit.
The admissions cap is divided into regional allocations, with 22,000 slots set aside for Africa, 6,000 for East Asia, 4,000 for Europe and Central Asia, 5,000 for Latin America and the Caribbean, 13,000 for the Near East and South Asia, and 12,500 set aside as a reserve.
The White House reversed course last month after Biden referred to the influx of migrant children at the country’s southern border as a “crisis,” in what seemed to be a significant change in terminology.
“We’re gonna increase the numbers. The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people and we couldn’t do two things at once. And now we’re going to increase the numbers,” Biden said at the time.
Biden previously stated that he was unable to sign off on raising the Trump-era refugee limit due to political concerns. The President’s reluctance came as the administration faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over its handling of the migrant influx at the US-Mexico border. However, the situation at the southern border of the United States is distinct from the resettlement program, which has been in operation for decades and has a rigorous screening mechanism in place for refugees seeking to resettle in the United States from other countries.
“Why was there such so much back and forth about this refugee cap? Was the hesitancy just about politics?” Tapper said.
“The President has been committed to the refugee program and to rebuilding it and regaining our status as a world leader in the refugee affairs since day one, and that has been unwavering. We’re very proud of the announcement today, and it reflects that enduring commitment,” Mayorkas replied.
Refugee advocates applauded Monday’s announcement.
“President Biden has reaffirmed what so many Americans have long known — refugees are welcome here and are a blessing to our communities. The new admissions ceiling reflects our core values as a welcoming nation, and finally aligns public policy with the unprecedented global need of millions forced from their home by violence, war, and persecution,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, in a statement.
“When America welcomes refugees, it is the best of America, drawing on its distinguished legacy and long-held ideals of offering shelter to those escaping conflict and political oppression,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.