Biden Raises Refugee Cap to 62,500 After Earlier Criticism

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President Biden, in a file photo, speaking in the East Room of the White House on April 15. Biden on Monday said his administration would significantly raise refugee admission caps.  (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Updated May 3, 2021 at 5:22 PM ET

President Biden on Monday announced his administration is raising the cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 for this fiscal year, far above the 15,000 limit set by the Trump administration, but below his earlier campaign promise.

"It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin," Biden said in a statement.

Biden said the Trump cap "did not reflect America's values as a nation" and the United States had a "commitment to protect the most vulnerable."

The move comes after the administration faced criticism from fellow Democrats last month when it announced plans to retain former President Donald Trump's low ceiling, contrary to Biden's campaign promise to allow more refugees into the country this year.

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Even with the cap of 15,000 in place so far, only about 2,000 refugees had been let in as of the end of March, during the first half of fiscal year 2021, according to the Refugee Processing Center.

Biden acknowledged in his Monday statement that the 62,500 threshold will not actually be met this year, blaming his predecessor for delaying that goal.


(Map by the Associated Press)

"The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this [fiscal] year. We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway," Biden said.

Biden vowed to aim to reach his campaign goal of 125,000 refugee admissions next fiscal year, which begins in October. "That goal will still be hard to hit. We might not make it the first year. But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries."

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Under current allocations, the United States will be able to accept some 22,000 refugees from Africa, who will make up the largest group.

Oxfam, the humanitarian organization, praised the Biden administration for raising the cap but criticized both Biden and Trump for time lost in assisting in the global refugee crises.

"We are relieved that the Biden administration has, after a long and unnecessary delay, kept its promise to raise the refugee admissions cap for this year to 62,500," Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America's global policy lead, said in a statement. "This announcement means the United States can finally begin to rebuild the life-saving refugee resettlement program and welcome the tens of thousands of people who have been left stranded by four years of the Trump administration's xenophobic policies and three months of the Biden administration's inaction."

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