Joe Biden raises refugee cap to 62,500 after backlash

“I am in the process of revising the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to the United States to 62,500 for this fiscal year,” Biden said in a lengthy statement Monday. “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 he plans to set a target of 125,000 refugee admissions for fiscal year 2022 as well, in line with the pledge he made in his first foreign policy speech at the State Department.

Monday’s announcement brings the administration back to its original proposal introduced in February. The administration abruptly reversed the course last month, when it announced that Biden would sign an emergency decision that kept this year’s refugee ceiling at 15,000, but would not raise it as he had pledged to. make. This move was immediately resented by refugee groups and Democratic lawmakers frustrated by the sudden change.

On Monday, Biden said taking action on the ceiling “will remove any lingering doubts in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much and who are eagerly awaiting the start of their new lives.”

“The sad truth is that we will not get 62,500 admissions this year,” the president continued. “We are working quickly to repair the damage of the past four years. It will take time, but this work is already underway.”

Biden also said his target of 125,000 refugee admissions in the first year of his presidency “will always be elusive.”

“We may not get there in the first year. But we will use all the tools available to help these duly checked refugees who are fleeing the horrific conditions in their country of origin,” he continued. Ceilings for refugees are often seen as a goal to be achieved.

As of March 31, only 2,050 refugees had been admitted to the United States this fiscal year under Trump’s 15,000 cap, according to the Refugee Processing Center, which is part of the State Department.

The admission limit is broken down into regional allowances, including 22,000 slots for Africa, 6,000 for East Asia, 4,000 for Europe and Central Asia, 5,000 for Latin America and the Caribbean, 13,000 for the Near East and South Asia and a reserve of 12,500.
Last month, the White House backtracked after Biden described the influx of migrant children to the country’s southern border as a “crisis,” in what appeared to be a noticeable change of language.

“We will increase the number. The problem was that the refugee side was working on the crisis that ended at the border with the young people and we couldn’t do two things at the same time. And now we’re going to increase the numbers, ”Biden said at the time.

CNN previously reported that Biden had resisted approval of the Trump-era refugee ceiling increase due to political optics. The president’s reluctance came as the administration faced heat from Republicans and Democrats for its handling of an influx of migrants to the US-Mexico border. But the situation on the southern border of the United States is separate from the Refugee Program, which dates back decades and has put in place a thorough vetting process to allow overseas refugees to resettle in the United States.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday whether politics played a role in the administration’s hesitation on the issue.

“Why has there been so much back and forth about this refugee cap? Was the hesitation just a matter of politics? Tapper said.

“The President has been committed to supporting and rebuilding the refugee agenda and regaining our status as a world leader in the refugee field from day one, and that has not changed.” We are very proud of today’s announcement, and it reflects this lasting commitment, ”replied Mayorkas.

Refugee advocates applauded Monday’s announcement.

“President Biden reaffirmed what so many Americans have long known: Refugees are welcome here and are a blessing to our communities. The new admission cap reflects our core values ​​as a welcoming nation and finally aligns public policy with the unprecedented global need that millions of people have been driven from their homes by violence, war and persecution, ”said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a statement.

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, echoed this, saying, “When America takes in refugees, it’s America’s best, building on its tradition. distinguished and its long-standing values ​​of providing refuge to those fleeing violence and political persecution. “

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.

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