President BidenJoe BidenPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks State school board leaves national association saying they called parents domestic terrorists Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases MORE on Friday signed a declaration committing the U.S. to accept up to 125,000 refugees for the coming fiscal year, formalizing an earlier promise that allows funds to be released to help resettle them.
The ambitious announcement comes as the White House resettled just 11,411 refugees at the close of the fiscal year last week, the lowest figure in the history of the U.S. refugee program and one that failed to top the 11,814 low-point set under Trump.
While making good on a campaign promise, the commitment comes as refugee resettlement agencies have been told to expect as many as 95,000 Afghan refugees this coming year following the U.S. evacuation.
Biden notified Congress of his recommendation to set the refugee cap at 125,000 for the coming fiscal year in September.
But the report seems to express some internal doubt about the government’s ability to meet that goal. It told Congress that the State Department would issue funding for 65,000 refugees.
“Those funding levels will be re-evaluated and increased as appropriate as the year progresses and as it becomes clearer how much progress can be made against the target,” the White House wrote.
The commitment to a reassessment comes after Biden waffled on refugee numbers early in his presidency.
Biden in February said he would raise the cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year — part of a pledge to reach 125,000 within his first year in office.
But he slow-walked the presidential determination that officially set the new number for the program, forcing refugee resettlement agencies to cancel flights for a number of people set to be resettled in March.
And when Biden finally signed the determination in April, he backtracked significantly, setting the refugee cap at 15,000, the same all-time low used under Trump, infuriating both advocates and congressional Democrats.
Facing instant backlash, the White House again raised the refugee cap to 62,500, a largely aspirational figure despite being significantly lower than caps set between 70,000 to 80,000 under prior administrations.
The administration has largely blamed its predecessor for hindering the program during Biden's first year in office.
“In my consultations with Members of Congress, I underscored that the State Department is committed to rebuilding our U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in line with our long tradition of offering hope and safe haven to those fleeing persecution. We are diligently working to rebuild the infrastructure of the program," Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUS rejoining UN Human Rights Council; what it should do first Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Obama to attend Glasgow climate summit MORE said in a statement Friday.