Biden raises refugee cap to 62,500 after blowback, still well short of historic highs


The Biden administration announced on Monday it aims to accept up to 62,500 refugees into the US before year’s end. The move comes after president Biden faced intense criticism for initially deciding to stick with the Trump administration’s goal of 15,000 refugees per year.

“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,” the White House said in a statement on Monday.

The decision was welcomed by migration advocates, though the revised target is still well below historic refugee resettlement numbers in the US. Some years have seen more than 200,000 refugees enter the country.

The White House also warned, that after the Trump administration’s numerous rule-changes and slow-downs to the immigration, which vastly scaled back both the refugee and asylum systems, even the 62,500 benchmark might not be possible.

“The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year. We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years,” it said in a statement.


The president has also vowed to raise refugee admissions to 125,000 for his first full fiscal year in office, 2021, which would be higher than targets set in the Obama administration.

Initially, however, the White House was aiming for far less refugees in 2020, keeping the cap at 15,000 due to “the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” as press secretary Jen Psaki explained.

Immigrant groups and political allies alike were outraged.

“This is a time of unprecedented global need, and the US is still far from returning to its historic role of safe haven for the world’s persecuted and most vulnerable,” David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement at the time.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the decision “utterly unacceptable.”

“Completely and utterly unacceptable,” she wrote in a tweet. “Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise. Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, including the historically low and plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong. Keep your promise.”

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