President Joe Biden will lift the cap on refugee admissions to 62,500, he announced Monday, after the administration previously announced it would not lift the limit on refugee admissions and garnered significant blowback from Democratic allies over the decision.
The cap will be raised to 62,500 this fiscal year, though the president acknowledged that while that will be the upper limit, the “sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year.”
Biden had previously proposed a plan that raised the cap on admissions this year to 62,500 from 15,000—the limit the Trump administration had imposed—but the administration later said that while it would undo other Trump-era restrictions on refugees, the limit on admissions would not be raised.
Democrats lashed out against the announcement and more than half of all Senate Democrats urged the president to raise the cap, prompting White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to later say the administration would “set a final, increased refugee cap” by May 15 in response to the criticism.
The administration was not expected to raise the cap all the way to 62,500 as originally intended, however, with Psaki saying in April that target “seems unlikely” due to the significant cuts to the refugee admissions program under the Trump administration.
Biden said Monday that he still intends to raise the cap to 125,000 next year, though he noted that was an aspirational goal in terms of how many refugees will actually be let into the country, and “we might not make it the first year.”
“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,” Biden said in a statement Monday. “We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway.”
2,050. That’s the number of refugees that have been admitted so far to the U.S. in 2021 as of April, according to an International Rescue Committee study published April 11, before Biden lifted some Trump-era restrictions on refugees. Had Biden not lifted the restrictions, the IRC projected Biden was on track to admit only 4,510 refugees to the U.S. this year, the fewest of any U.S. president in modern history.
Refugee admissions were significantly reduced under the Trump administration, which steadily eroded the admissions cap from 50,000 in 2017 to 15,000 in 2021 and reportedly considered barring most refugees entirely. The Trump White House’s cuts “decimated” the refugee program’s infrastructure as a result, resettlement agencies told ABC News, hamstringing the program’s capacity to admit new refugees into the U.S. despite the Biden administration’s higher cap. The Democratic president has vowed to undo the Trump administration’s damage to refugee admissions and expressed his commitment to welcoming refugees, signing an executive order expanding the admissions program soon after taking office and calling the program Monday “a statement about who we are, and who we want to be.” Immigration advocates have criticized how Biden’s approach to refugee admissions has played out in practice, however, as the president waited months to sign the presidential determination that undid the Trump-era restrictions—reportedly over concerns about the political optics of doing so.
Biden Signs Refugee Order But Won’t Yet Lift Trump’s Cap On Admissions (Forbes)
White House Promises Boost In Refugee Admissions After Outrage From Democrats (Forbes)
Dozens Of Senate Democrats Urge Biden To Boost Refugee Admissions This Year (Forbes)
Biden May Welcome Even Fewer Refugees This Year Than Trump, Report Finds (Forbes)