“I am revising the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year,” Biden said in a lengthy statement 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.”
Biden said he plans to set a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions for fiscal year 2022 as well, in line with a commitment he made in his first foreign policy address at the State Department.
Monday, Biden said taking action on the cap will “remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin.”
“The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year,” the President continued. “We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway.”
Biden also said his goal of 125,000 refugee admissions within the first fiscal year of his presidency “will still be hard to hit.”
“We might not make it the first year. But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully-vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries,” he continued. Refugee caps are often viewed as a goal to be reached.
As of March 31, only 2,050 refugees had been admitted to the United States this fiscal year under Trump’s 15,000 cap, according to the Refugee Processing Center, which is part of the State Department.
“We’re gonna increase the numbers. The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people and we couldn’t do two things at once. And now we’re going to increase the numbers,” Biden said at the time.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Monday whether politics played a factor in the administration’s waffling on the issue.
“Why was there such so much back and forth about this refugee cap? Was the hesitancy just about politics?” Tapper said.
“The President has been committed to the refugee program and to rebuilding it and regaining our status as a world leader in the refugee affairs since day one, and that has been unwavering. We’re very proud of the announcement today, and it reflects that enduring commitment,” Mayorkas replied.
Refugee advocates applauded Monday’s announcement.
“President Biden has reaffirmed what so many Americans have long known — refugees are welcome here and are a blessing to our communities. The new admissions ceiling reflects our core values as a welcoming nation, and finally aligns public policy with the unprecedented global need of millions forced from their home by violence, war, and persecution,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, in a statement.
David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, echoed that, saying: “When America welcomes refugees it is the best of America, leaning on its distinguished tradition and long-held values of providing refuge to those fleeing violence and political persecution.”
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.