Biden has raised the refugee cap. What does that mean for those coming to America?

Biden has raised the refugee cap. What does that mean for those coming to America?
Source: Go Nakamura, Reuters
Biden had been facing pressure to raise the cap from progressive Democrats and immigration advocates.

  • President Joe Biden has announced that the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year has been raised to 62,500.
  • Under the Trump administration, only 15,000 refugees had been allowed into the country each year.
  • “It is important to take this action today to 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,” Biden said during the announcement.
  • Biden’s order also added spaces for refugees from Central America, the Middle East and Africa. The order also ended restrictions that the Trump administration had placed on refugees resettling from Somalia, Syria and Yemen. These countries were part of a travel ban imposed by the former president in 2018.
  • Biden also promised to raise the number to 125,000 next year.

What is the refugee system?

  • Unlike those who enter the country claiming asylum, potential refugees fill out applications for admittance to the US while they are still overseas.
  • Asylum-seekers apply for protections at a port of entry in the US, like the US-Mexico border, or inside the US if they are already in the country.
  • The White House was thought to be worried about the optics of allowing more refugees into the country. By raising the number of refugees allowed in, critics have alleged that the Biden administration is encouraging the arrival of more immigrants.

Why did the Biden administration delay raising the cap?

  • In the months before deciding to increase the number of refugees allowed in, Biden stated that former President Donald Trump’s cap number “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.”
  • Biden also suggested that part of the delay was because the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the US from Latin America had put too much stress on the current systems the US has in place to deal with new arrivals.
  • Biden had been facing pressure to raise the cap from progressive Democrats and immigration advocates.
  • Representative Ilhan Omar, who herself immigrated to the US from Somalia, tweeted, “As a refugee, I know finding a home is a matter of life or death for children around the world. It is shameful that @POTUS is reneging on a key promise to welcome refugees.”
  • On May 3, data from a Pew Research Center survey showed a majority of adults were unsatisfied with Biden’s response to immigration issues. Almost two-thirds “say that the government is doing a very (33%) or somewhat (35%) bad job of dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the country’s southern border.”


  • Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president and chief executive officer of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, praised the administration’s move. “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.”
  • Republicans will likely be harder to convince, with the Pew Research survey finding that 78% of Republicans want to make it harder for migrants to seek asylum.
  • Many Republican politicians blame the Biden administration for what they call a “crisis on the border.”
  • For Biden to successfully address the immigration issue, like finding a humane way to handle the increased number of unaccompanied minors who show up at the border seeking refuge, finding common ground with those across the political aisle is an important step.

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