Joe Biden has officially raised the U.S. refugee admissions ceiling to 62,500 this year, weeks after suffering a bipartisan pushback for his delay in replacing the record ceiling set by Donald Trump.
Refugee resettlement agencies have been waiting for Biden to quadruple the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year since Feb.12, when a presidential proposal was submitted to Congress saying he planned to do so.
But the presidential decision was not signed until Monday. Biden said he must first expand the tight eligibility criteria put in place by Trump that had barred most refugees from entering. He did so last month in an emergency determination, which also said Trump’s ceiling of up to 15,000 refugees this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.” .
It sparked a strong crackdown not to at least take the symbolic step of allowing more refugees into the United States this year, and within hours the White House quickly corrected its course. The administration has promised to raise the historically low cap by May 15 – but likely not until the previously described 62,500 Biden.
In the end, Biden walked back on that number.
“It is important to take this step today to 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,” Biden said before signing the decision. presidential emergency.
Biden said Trump’s cap “does not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”
But he recognized the “sad truth” that the United States would not hit the 62,500 cap by the end of the fiscal year in September, given the pandemic and the limitations of the country’s resettlement capacity. – some of which are attributed by his administration to the Trump administration’s policies restricting immigration.
Biden said it was important to raise that number to show “America’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable and being a beacon of freedom and refuge for the world.”
The move also paves the way for Biden to raise the cap to 125,000 for fiscal 2022, which begins in October.
Since the start of the fiscal year on October 1, just over 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States.
Refugee resettlement agencies applauded Biden’s action.
“We are absolutely delighted and relieved for so many refugee families around the world who are looking to the United States for protection,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, head of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the nine resettlement agencies in the country. “It sounds like a roller coaster ride, but it is a critical step towards rebuilding the program and returning the United States to our role as a global humanitarian leader.”
Biden also added more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and ended Trump’s restrictions on resettlement from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
“We are facing a refugee resettlement process that was gutted by the previous administration and we are still in a pandemic,” said Mark Hetfield, president of Hias, a Maryland-based Jewish nonprofit that resettles the refugees. “It’s a challenge, but it’s important that it sends a message to the world that the United States is back and ready to welcome refugees again.”