Joe Biden campaigned for president on raising refugee admissions to the U.S., from the historic low of 15,000 set by the previous administration, to 125,000. Last Thursday, President Biden signed an executive order seeking to put the United States on track to begin welcoming that number in the first full fiscal year of the new administration, which begins in October.
Until then, CBS News reports that the Biden administration is seeking to revise the number set by the previous administration for the 2021 fiscal year, which said only 15,000 refugees would be welcomed to the U.S. The previous administration set that number just weeks before losing the 2020 election. CBS News reports Biden seeks to quadruple the previous administration’s cap to 62,500 refugees.
Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson wrote last week that President Biden’s visit to the State Department, which oversees the resettlement of refugees to the U.S., “sen[t] an unmistakable message … that priorities have changed in the federal government. Raising the number of people who can be admitted to the U.S. isn’t just a matter of naming a number: During the Trump years, the institutions and processes for vetting and resettling people were gutted, and will have to be rebuilt.”
Resettlement organizations that have worked with the federal government for years to help families build new lives in America noted that raising limits after the past four years will be no easy task, but nevertheless welcomed Biden’s news. “HIAS welcomes @POTUS‘ proposal to raise the refugee admissions ceiling to 62,500 for the rest of this fiscal year,” the organization tweeted. “It is ambitious with #COVID19 and a decimated refugee resettlement infrastructure, but we are ready to welcome as many people as possible.”
Church World Service director of policy and advocacy Meredith Owen told CBS News that “[h]ope has been restored to refugee families who have been waiting for years for safety—including refugees who were approved to travel and rejoin family in the U.S. before the program was slashed to all time lows. We can’t wait to finally welcome them home.”
The Biden administration must still formally consult with Congress on the new limits, a law the previous administration violated numerous times. In what would turn out to be its final time setting refugee limits, the previous administration last year skipped its lawfully required meeting for nearly a month, meeting with House and Senate Judiciary Committee members three weeks after the deadline. It wasn’t even the first time the administration has pulled that, legislators said at the time. It was the third time. And, mercifully, its last.