Biden Raises Refugee Cap After Backlash From Democrats

President Joe Biden announced Monday that he would be raising the refugee admissions cap for the current fiscal year to 62,500 from the previous administration’s 15,000 refugee cap. 

In a statement, Biden said that the new cap “will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States’ capacity to admit refugees, so that we can reach the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions that I intend to set for the coming fiscal year.”

“It is important to take this action today to 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 statement continued. 

The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program states that under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), “a refugee is an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Biden said that the United States Refugee Admissions Program “embodies America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world.” He added that it is “a statement about who we are, and who we want to be. So we are going to rebuild what has been broken and push hard to complete the rigorous screening process for those refugees already in the pipeline for admission.”

In his statement, Biden added that the “sad truth” is that the United States will not reach his cap of 62,500 admissions this year. 

Biden added that in the budget that he has sent to Congress, his goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in the first fiscal year of his presidency is also reflected.

“That goal will still be hard to hit. We might not make it the first year,” he said. “But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully-vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries. This will reassert American leadership and American values when it comes to refugee admissions.”

Biden previously faced backlash for seeming to retreat on his campaign promise of increasing the cap on refugee admissions when the White House announced in April that it would keep the number at 15,000 refugees. After receiving criticism from Democrats, the administration changed its statement. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the previous statement was made because Biden “was urged to take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions within days; today’s order does that,” according to NPR.

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) wrote a letter to Biden at the time, saying, ”Having fought for four years against the Trump Administration’s full-scale assault on refugee resettlement in the United States, we were relieved to see you commit to increasing our refugee resettlement numbers so early in your Administration. But until the Emergency Presidential Determination is finalized, our refugee policy remains unacceptably draconian and discriminatory.” 

“We must keep our promises to people who have fled unthinkably brutal conditions in their home countries and live up to our ambition to provide them a safe haven to re-start their lives,” the letter added.

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