President Joe Biden announced Monday that he’s raising the annual refugee admissions limit to 62,500, a decision that comes weeks after facing fierce backlash over keeping the number set by the Trump administration and appearing to renege on a pledge to lift the ceiling.
The cap on the number of refugees who can be admitted into the U.S. is currently at 15,000 for fiscal 2021, a record-low number set by former President Donald Trump that Democratic lawmakers and refugee advocates vigorously pushed for the Biden administration to significantly increase.
“The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year. 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 said in a statement on Monday afternoon.
“We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing the regional allocations last month, we have already increased the number of refugees ready for departure to the United States,” he added.
In mid-April, Biden issued a presidential determination that the refugee cap would remain at 15,000. But hours after the uproar on that announcement, the White House released a statement that the president would raise the ceiling to 62,500 by May 15.
When pressed by reporters about keeping the Trump-era cap and the apparent reversal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that the directive announced in April caused confusion and that Biden always planned to increase it the following month.
The order in April did, however, change the regional allocations set by the Trump administration and allows more refugees to be relocated to the U.S. from Africa, Central America and the Middle East. It also ended restrictions on refugees coming from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
In Biden’s Monday statement, the White House argued that because of the reallocations from last month, “we have already increased the number of refugees ready for departure to the United States.”