Biden Will Raise Refugee Ceiling to 62,500 after Democrats’ Backlash

President Joe Biden delivers his first prime time address marking the one-year anniversary of widespread shutdowns to combat the coronavirus pandemic and speaking about the impact of the pandemic during an address from the East Room of the White House, March 11, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

President Biden will officially raise the refugee ceiling to 62,500 this fiscal year after being met with Democratic outrage last month when he announced plans to keep the lower Trump-era cap in place.

“Today, I am revising the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year,” Biden said in a statement on 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.”

He continued: “The new admissions cap will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States’ capacity to admit refugees, so that we can reach the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions that I intend to set for the coming fiscal year.”

The change comes after the administration said last month that Biden would sign an emergency determination to speed the processing of prospective refugees, but would not raise the Trump administration’s refugee cap of 15,000-per-year, prompting reports that he had abandoned an earlier pledge to raise the cap.

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The White House reversed course hours later after significant pushback from Democrats and immigration activists, with White House Press Secretary Psaki claiming that the president’s earlier directive had been the subject of “some confusion.”

At the time, she claimed that Biden would look to announce a higher ceiling than 15,000 in May, though she said it would be difficult to meet the president’s initial goal of allowing 62,500 refugees into the country this year because of changes imposed by Trump.

On Monday, Biden said “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,” he added. “It will take some time, but that work is already underway. We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing the regional allocations last month, we have already increased the number of refugees ready for departure to the United States.”

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