Administration

Biden keeps refugee admissions cap at 125,000 for 2023

President Biden
Greg Nash
President Biden speaks at an event in the Rose Garden to discuss healthcare costs and protecting Medicare and Social Security on Wednesday, September 27, 2022.

The Biden administration will set the refugee admissions cap at 125,000 for fiscal 2023, officials announced Tuesday, leaving it unadjusted from a year ago while officials hope the U.S. is able to admit more refugees than in 2022.

The administration announced the figure for the coming fiscal year, which starts Saturday, as advocates have been pushing for Biden to allow more refugees into the country amid global humanitarian concerns and after years of the Trump administration slashing the intake of refugees.

“This ambitious target demonstrates that the United States is committed to rebuilding and strengthening the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), including by building capacity, modernizing and streamlining overall operations, and resolving long-delayed applications,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The 125,000 figure is the maximum number of refugees that would be admitted through the program and does not mean that many individuals will go through the process to enter the country. It also does not include the thousands of Ukrainians and Afghans who were admitted into the U.S. as they fled war in their respective countries.

The 2023 figure includes 40,000 slots for refugees coming from Africa; 15,000 for those coming from East Asia; 15,000 for those coming from Europe and Central Asia; 15,000 for refugees from Latin America; 35,000 for South Asia; and 5,000 unallocated reserve spots.

Humanitarian groups and refugee advocates have pushed for Biden to raise the cap and streamline the application process, arguing climate change, war and religious persecution are among the factors that have exacerbated the need for the program.

“Our nation’s reputation as the world’s beacon of hope demands a system that can respond efficiently and consistently to forced displacement, whether that be Afghan interpreters left behind, Venezuelan families fleeing communist authoritarianism, dissidents from Hong Kong defending democracy, or religious minorities like Rohingya & Uyghur Muslims persecuted solely for their faith,” the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service said in a statement. “With so many lives on the line, the admin must take urgent action to restore our global humanitarian leadership in refugee resettlement.”

Biden on the campaign trail pledged to raise the refugee cap from the low mark of 15,000 under the Trump administration to 125,000. But he triggered anger from Democrats and activists last year when he originally said he would keep the cap at 15,000. The White House eventually raised the cap to 62,500, and later to 125,000.

But the U.S. has admitted fewer than 20,000 refugees during the current fiscal year, which ends Friday.

Some Biden officials tried to frame the announcement for 2023 around being able to admit more refugees than the previous year, despite keeping the cap steady.

“The United States is committed to welcoming more refugees in the upcoming fiscal year through a strengthened refugee admissions program,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price tweeted.

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