Biden to raise refugee cap to 125,000 in October

Afghan refugees displaced from their homes due to the Taliban takeover arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., on Monday, August 30, 2021.
Greg Nash

The Biden administration on Monday said it would raise the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 in fiscal 2022, meeting a target that President Biden set during his presidential campaign.

The State Department said it transmitted a report to relevant congressional committees recommending “an increase in the refugee admissions target from 62,500 in Fiscal Year 2021 to 125,000 in Fiscal Year 2022 to address needs generated by humanitarian crises around the globe.” The next fiscal year begins in October.

“With the world facing unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs, the United States is committed to leading efforts to provide protection and promote durable solutions to humanitarian crises, to include providing resettlement for the most vulnerable,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Monday.

“A robust refugee admissions program is critical to U.S. foreign policy interests and national security objectives, and is a reflection of core American values,” Price added.

The Biden administration will need additional slots in part to accommodate Afghans who are being brought to the United States after the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban during the U.S. military withdrawal from the country.

Some 53,000 Afghans have been brought to the U.S., though a portion of them are applicants for special immigrant visas. Earlier this month, the White House asked Congress for $6.4 billion in additional funding to help resettle Afghan refugees.

The report, which was prepared by the departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services and sent to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, says that the administration is raising the cap with a particular focus on the following populations: “expanded resettlement of Central Americans; enhanced access to the USRAP for Afghans at risk due to their affiliation with the United States; increased resettlement of LGBTQI+ refugees; priority access for at-risk Uyghurs, Hong Kong refugees, and Burmese dissidents; and resettlement of Burmese Rohingya.”

According to the report, the administration would allocate 40,000 slots for refugees from Africa, 15,000 for those from East Asia, 10,000 for those from Europe and Central Asia, 15,000 for those from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 35,000 for those from the Near East and South Asia, while 10,000 more belong to an unallocated reserve.

Biden endured criticism earlier this year when the White House announced he would keep the Trump administration’s record low refugee cap of 15,000. When campaigning against former President Trump, Biden had pledged to raise the refugee ceiling to 125,000.

The move provoked a torrent of criticism from Democrats, and the White House quickly changed course, saying the figure wasn’t final. Weeks later, the administration raised the cap to 62,500 but warned that officials were unlikely to meet it.

The administration acknowledges in the report that the arrivals in the current fiscal year will “fall far short” of the 62,500 target that Biden set in early May. Only 7,637 refugees have been admitted into the U.S. in the past year, which Democrats blamed on the Trump administration. That number does not include Afghan refugees admitted recently.

“We are greatly encouraged by President Biden’s announcement today affirming his commitment to admit up to 125,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year and to rebuild the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the Trump Administration decimated the program and in fiscal year 2021, our nation admitted the lowest number of refugees in recent history. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration to restore this life saving program and our reputation as a leader in providing refuge to those fleeing persecution around the globe,” the House lawmakers said.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also applauded the new refugee admissions target.

“While I’m disappointed in the projected number of refugees to be admitted this fiscal year, I acknowledge the challenges the Biden Administration inherited with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program due to the anti-immigrant actions of the previous Administration,” Durbin tweeted.

“Facing the greatest refugee crisis in our time, I know the Biden Administration is working to restore the United States’ longstanding bipartisan tradition of providing safety to the world’s most vulnerable refugees—including Afghan refugees,” he said.

Updated at 6:29 p.m.

Tags Dick Durbin Donald Trump Immigration Jerrold Nadler Jerry Nadler Joe Biden refugee cap refugees Zoe Lofgren

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