Joe Biden to allow up to 62 500 refugees into US after criticism

0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Migrants, mostly from Mexico, are pictured sitting on the ground waiting near the Paso del Norte Bridge at the Mexico-US border, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on September 12, 2019.
Migrants, mostly from Mexico, are pictured sitting on the ground waiting near the Paso del Norte Bridge at the Mexico-US border, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on September 12, 2019.
Paul Ratje AFP via Getty Images
  • The Biden administration increased the US refugee cap to 62 500.
  • The move in response to criticism at Biden keeping the Donald Trump era limit.
  • Biden indicated that the cap would be increased to 125 000.


US President Joe Biden announced on Monday, after coming under fierce criticism, that he was raising the maximum number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to 62 500 - up from the 15 000 cap imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump.

The change follows backlash from allies over Biden's earlier decision to keep the Trump-era limits - a politically costly moment of confusion that stood out in a White House notable for its iron discipline in its first three months.

"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 in a statement.

"The new admissions cap will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States' capacity to admit refugees, so that we can reach the goal of 125 000 refugee admissions that I intend to set for the coming fiscal year."

READ | US Vice President Kamala Harris says US border problems won't be solved 'overnight'

The programme is only for refugees selected by US security and intelligence agencies from United Nations camps around the world.

'Lives are at stake'

The course correction was quickly welcomed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is controlled by Biden's Democratic party.

"I welcome the Biden administration's announcement that it will increase the number of refugees allowed to be resettled in the United States. This is an important step in continuing our proud, bipartisan tradition of providing refugees protection through resettlement," the committee chair, Senator Bob Menendez, tweeted.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a powerful advocacy group, also voiced approval, saying that the country's "reputation" was at stake.

"We are pleased to see President Biden has abandoned the Trump administration's abysmal refugee goal and recommitted to prioritising helping people who are fleeing persecution around the globe," ACLU representative Manar Waheed said.

"We recognise that the goal may not be easy and it requires rebuilding a system that was decimated by the Trump administration, but candidate Biden promised," Waheed said.

"He must fulfil that promise, lives are at stake."

Trump clamped down on refugees as part of the hardline border policies at the heart of his nationalist political platform.

Biden campaigned on promises to restore more traditional US attitudes.

But he then backtracked after his government ran into difficulties in handling a surge of migrants entering the country illegally or claiming asylum at the Mexican border.

In April, the White House said it needed more time to "rebuild" the post-Trump refugee programme and would therefore keep the cap at 15 000 for the year.

After a top Democrat and refugee aid groups slammed Biden's target as "appallingly low" and "deeply disappointing", the White House issued a statement hours later saying the low number was only provisional.

In another shift from Trump's policies, Biden announced in April that quotas were being expanded for refugees from Central America, the Middle East and Africa, while also opening the doors to three mostly Muslim countries - Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

With Monday's announcement, the White House will hope to have calmed the political waters among Democrats just when it needs party unity to push forward on huge proposed social and infrastructure spending plans in an almost evenly divided Congress.

"We are amid the largest global refugee crisis in history, and after four years of slashing admittances to the lowest point on record, we need to return to our leadership position," another Democratic senator, Tim Kaine, said.

"I am heartened by today's announcement that moved toward upholding our values of accepting refugees."

Trump set the 15 000 cap nearly a month before the November 2020 presidential election, which he lost.

Under his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, with whom Biden served as vice president, an average of 100 000 people were welcomed into the United States each year.

"It is in our DNA as a nation to open our door to those seeking refuge," said US secretary of state Antony Blinken in response to Biden's announcement on Monday.

"It remains in our national interest to treat individuals applying for these programs fairly and with dignity and respect."

We know this was a long read and your time is precious. Did you know you can now listen to articles? Subscribe to News24 for access to this exciting feature and more.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Is social media doing more harm than good?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, our children are exposed and we can't protect them
49% - 4264 votes
Yes, but social media is part of the new reality
46% - 3953 votes
No, it's great for growing a child's world view
5% - 434 votes
Vote
USD/ZAR
14.05
0.0%
GBP/ZAR
19.67
0.0%
EUR/ZAR
17.10
0.0%
AUD/ZAR
11.03
0.0%
JPY/ZAR
0.13
0.0%
Gold
1,831.32
0.0%
Silver
27.45
0.0%
Palladium
2,929.64
0.0%
Platinum
1,256.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
68.28
+0.3%
Top 40
62,573
+1.4%
All Share
68,520
+1.4%
Resource 10
71,474
+2.1%
Industrial 25
86,856
+0.9%
Financial 15
12,711
+1.1%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo