President Biden has opted to retain the Trump administration’s 15,000 cap on refugee admissions to the US despite earlier proposing that the cap be expanded to 62,500.
Biden signed the executive order on Friday to keep last fiscal year’s numbers in place, but broadened the regions from which the U.S. will accept refugees to include parts of Africa and the Middle East, reinstating countries banned under former President Donald Trump.
The decision to keep the numbers in place has been met with sharp pushback from Democratic lawmakers who blasted the Trump administration’s policy as restrictive and urged Biden to lift the cap.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argued the 15,000 cap prevents “the Department of State from admitting vetted refugees currently waiting in the system who do not fit into the unprecedentedly narrow refugee categories designated by the Trump administration” and hinders the administration from making good on its goal to allow for 125,000 refugees into the country in Fiscal Year 2022
“The United States has a proud, bipartisan tradition of providing refugees protection through resettlement. In this time of great global need, the United States must demonstrate its robust commitment as a nation by resettling the world’s most vulnerable refugees,” he said in a statement.
“As we face the largest global refugee crisis in history, with 29.6 million refugees worldwide, resettlement serves as a critical tool in providing protection to those fleeing persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
The move was a significant walk back from the State Department’s proposal to Congress in February aiming to allow for more than 60,000 admissions for the fiscal year ending this September.
A senior White House official told The New York Times the decision to keep the numbers in place comes as the administration faces bipartisan criticisms for the surge of migrants at the southern border.