Biden to start process of raising refugee cap to 125,000
President Biden on Thursday said he plans to sign an executive order to begin the process of raising the refugee admissions cap up to 125,000 after it was drastically reduced under the Trump administration.
Biden, in a speech at the State Department, said he would seek to position the U.S. to accept 125,000 refugees during the first full fiscal year of his administration, meaning he would not look to increase the cap immediately.
“I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need,” Biden said in prepared remarks. “It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged. But that’s precisely what we’re going to do.”
Biden added that he was asking the State Department to consult with Congress “about making a down payment” so his administration could increase the limit to 125,000 during its first full fiscal year, which would run from Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022.
Former President Obama in his final year in office capped the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. at 116,000.
The Trump administration steadily slashed the number of refugees admitted into the United States over the last few years. Trump proposed capping the number of refugees at 45,000 in his first year in office, then reduced that number to 30,000 the following year before further cutting it to 18,000.
Trump in his final year in office proposed that only 15,000 refugees be allowed to resettle in the U.S., marking a historic low of admission for some of the world’s most vulnerable peoples.
Biden pledged as a presidential candidate to increase the cap to 125,000, adding that he was committed to raising that number over time. But his plans could be complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to travel restrictions and other measures to try to slow the spread of the virus.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees praised the announcement on Thursday, saying the move will save lives.
“It also shows that strength is rooted in compassion,” Filippo Grandi said in a statement. “It signals that the United States will do its part, as it has historically done, to help the world’s most vulnerable people, including by welcoming them in the United States.”
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