In a policy reversal Monday, President Joe Biden announced his administration will raise the refugee admissions cap to its previously announced goals of 62,500 for the fiscal year 2021 and 125,000 in 2022.
Biden announced the decision after receiving widespread criticism over a move last month to leave the 2021 refugee cap at 15,000 — a level set by former President Donald Trump.
“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,” Biden said in an issued statement.
He admitted it is a “sad truth” that United States will not actually be able achieve 62,500 refugee admissions this year, but added that by setting the goal it nonetheless would serve to “remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world.”
“It will take some time, but that work is already underway,” Biden said. “We have reopened the program to new refugees and by changing the regional allocations last month, we have already increased the number of refugees ready for departure to the United States.”
The United States has admitted just 2,050 refugees as of March 31, according to the Refugee Processing Center.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement following the announcement saying the administration has “already started rebuilding the infrastructure” of the refugee admissions program.
“A robust refugee admissions program is not only critical to U.S. foreign policy interests and national security objectives, it is a reflection of core American values,” said Blinken. “As part of addressing the broader migration crises around the world, our refugee admissions program must be restored so that those fleeing persecution can enter the United States.”
During his tenure as president, Trump gradually reduced refugee admissions, capping them at 50,000 in 2017, then dropping them to 45,000 for 2018 and 30,000 in 2019, before hitting 18,000 for 2020.
The administration on April 20 said Biden planned to sign an emergency determination to keep the 15,000 refugee cap in place, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki quickly walked back the announcement after immigration advocates blasted the idea.
She issued a statement to clarify “some confusion” it had caused, stating Biden’s goal of 62,500 “seems unlikely” due to the Trump administration’s decimation of the refugee admonitions program and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
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