The State Department announced Monday that the Biden administration plans to raise the maximum number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. in the upcoming fiscal year to 125,000 people, fulfilling President Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to reverse Donald Trump’s restrictive refugee policies.
Starting October 1, the refugee admission cap for the 2022 fiscal year will be raised to 125,000 people. Under former President Donald Trump, the maximum number of people able to be admitted to the U.S. as refugees was a record-low of just 15,000 people. The Biden administration initially said in April that they would keep the refugee cap to only 15,000. However, after severe backlash from progressives and activists, the administration increased the limit to 62,500 people for the 2021 fiscal year.
The cap of 62,500 has not been met for this fiscal year, as only 7,637 people have been accepted into the U.S. as refugees. Most of the more than 60,000 Afghans set to be resettled in the U.S. in the coming months are not officially considered refugees and do not count toward the limit.
“With the world facing unprecedented global displacement and humanitarian needs, the United States is committed to leading efforts to provide protection and promote durable solutions to humanitarian crises, to include providing resettlement to the most vulnerable,” said Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department.
The total cap of 125,00 people is distributed across several different regions of the world. The administration aims to accept 40,000 people from Africa, 15,000 from East Asia, 10,000 from Europe and Central Asia, 35,000 from Near East and South Asia, 15,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a reserve of 10,000 unallocated spots. Resettlement access will be prioritized for several at-risk populations, including LGBTQI+ refugees, Central Americans, Afghans affiliated with the United States, Uyghurs, Hong Kong refugees, and Burmese Rohingya.
The administration’s announcement comes at a time when over 15,000 Haitians are attempting to enter the U.S. at the southern border. The Haitian migrants are not technically considered refugees. The Biden administration has already expelled hundreds of Haitians seeking asylum from Texas and will continue the mass deportation.
While refugee advocates celebrated the administration’s decision to raise the refugee cap, they also made clear that it would be necessary to hire more processing personnel and invest in more federal resources to actually resettle a total of 125,000 refugees this year.
“Understandably, four years of the Trump administration’s assault on the refugee program coupled with pandemic challenges have hamstrung federal rebuilding efforts,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a refugee resettlement agency.
“But raising the cap without dedicating significant resources, personnel, and policies to streamline the process would be largely symbolic. It is vital that we see more refugee processing officers out in the field conducting necessary interviews.”
Sources: CNN 9/20/21; Washington Post 9/20/21; CBS News 9/20/21; Reuters 9/21/21; New York Times 9/20/21