On Thursday, President Joe Biden vowed to raise the U.S. cap on refugees permitted into the country each year to 125,000, up from just 15,000 in President Donald Trump’s final year in office.
“Today, I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need,” Biden said during an address to the U.S. State Department. “It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged.”
Biden said the new refugee caps will come into effect on Oct. 1. He said, “This executive order will position us to be able to raise the refugee admissions back up to 125,000 persons, for the first full year of the Biden administration,” which starts on Oct. 1.
125,000 refugees is an increase even from the years before Trump took office. In fiscal year 2017, which began in President Barack Obama’s final months in office on Oct 1, 2016, the proposed U.S. refugee cap was set at 110,000. In fiscal year 2021, which began in March during Trump’s final months in office, the proposed refugee cap was set at 15,000, down from 2018 in the 2020 fiscal year.
According to CNBC, the fiscal year 2021 cap represented the lowest cap level since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980.
In fiscal year 2016, Obama’s last full year in office, the refugee admission limit was set at 85,000, with 84,995 being admitted — the highest number since 1999, CNBC reported.
Further discussing his proposed refugee admission plans, Biden said he directed his State Department to consult with Congress “about making a down payment on that commitment as soon as possible.” He did not specify what a down payment on a new refugee admissions cap would entail.
Presidents must consult with Congress before setting the annual refugee limit.
During his State Department speech on Thursday, Biden addressed a range of foreign policy topics. Though he did not mention President Trump by name, he criticized numerous policies seen in the last four years under Trump’s leadership.
Biden said, “Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with the leaders of many of our closest friends — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea, and Australia — to begin re-forming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscles of democratic alliances that have atrophied from four years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse.”
Biden also described “reclaiming our credibility and moral authority” and working to “earn back our leadership position, and to catalyze global action on shared challenges.”