Andrew Harnik / AP
President Biden announced Monday that his administration is raising the ceiling on refugee access to 62,500 for this fiscal year, well above the 15,000 limit set by the Trump administration, but under an earlier campaign promise.
“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt on the part of refugees around the world who have suffered so much and are eagerly awaiting the start of their new lives,” the president said in a statement.
Biden said the former ceiling “did not reflect America’s values as a nation,” and the United States had a “commitment to protecting the most vulnerable.”
But in April, the Biden administration fumbled a message around the cap, initially saying it would keep former President Donald Trump’s low ceiling, but later, after criticism from other Democrats, saying it would follow up on a campaign promise to allow more refugees land this fiscal year.
Even with the ceiling 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 the financial year 2021, according to the Refugee Treatment Center.
Biden acknowledged in his Monday statement that the level of 62,500 will not be met in reality, blaming his predecessor’s work for putting the administration so backward in achieving its goal.
“The sad truth is that we are not getting 62,500 admissions here [fiscal] year. We have been working hard to undo the damage for the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway, ”said Biden.
Biden promised to aim for its campaign goal of 125,000 refugee admissions next fiscal year beginning in October. “This goal will still be difficult to achieve. We may not reach the first year. But we will use all available tools to help these fully supervised refugees fleeing terrible conditions in their home countries.”
Under current allocations, the United States will be able to receive 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 ceiling, but criticized Biden and Trump for the time they had lost in helping with global refugee crises.
“We are relieved that the Biden administration, after a long and unnecessary delay, has kept its promise to raise the refugee cap this year to 62,500,” Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Global Policy Leader, said in a statement. “This announcement means that the United States can finally begin rebuilding the life-saving refugee resettlement program and welcoming the tens of thousands of people left stranded by four years of the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies and three months of the Biden administration’s inaction.”