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Biden Raises Refugee Cap To 62,500 After Earlier Criticism

President Biden, here at the White House on April 15, announced Monday that his administration is lifting the ceiling on the number of refugees who can be admitted into the country this fiscal year.
Andrew Harnik
/
AP
President Biden, here at the White House on April 15, announced Monday that his administration is lifting the ceiling on the number of refugees who can be admitted into the country this fiscal year.

Updated May 3, 2021 at 5:22 PM ET

President Biden announced on Monday that 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 an 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," the president said in a statement.

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

But in April, the Biden administration fumbled an announcement around the cap — initially saying it would keep former President Donald Trump's low ceiling but then later, after criticism from fellow Democrats, saying it would follow through on a campaign promise to allow more refugees into the country this fiscal year.

Even with the cap of 15,000 in place so far, only about 2,000 refugees had been let in by 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 level of 62,500 will not be met in reality, blaming the work of his predecessor for setting the administration so behind in meeting its goal.

"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 for 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."

Under current allocations, the United States will be able to accept the most refugees, 22,000, from Africa. Thousands more are expected from East and South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, and more.

Oxfam, the humanitarian organization, praised the Biden administration for raising the cap but criticized Biden and Trump for time lost in assisting in 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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Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.
Alana Wise joined WAMU in September 2018 as the 2018-2020 Audion Reporting Fellow for Guns & America. Selected as one of 10 recipients nationwide of the Audion Reporting Fellowship, Alana works in the WAMU newsroom as part of a national reporting project and is spending two years focusing on the impact of guns in the Washington region.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.