President Biden Announces Plan to Rebuild Refugee Admissions Program

President Biden announced he intends to increase the cap on refugee admissions to the United States in fiscal year 2022 (beginning October 1, 2021) to 125,000.  In the meantime, he is also proposing to revise the cap for fiscal year 2021 (ending September 30, 2021) to 62,500. Last year, President Trump set the admissions cap at 15,000.  So far, since October 1, 2020, about 11,800 refugees have been admitted to the United States.

Under U.S. law, the president, in consultation with Congress, sets the number of refugee admissions for each fiscal year.  The fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30 of the following year. The number of refugees admitted to the United States during the Trump Administration were historically low and the cap of 15,000 he set for fiscal year 2021, was the lowest since 1980.

In addition to increasing the cap on refugee admissions, on February 4, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order, revoking Trump Administration executive orders related to heightened vetting procedures and requirements that refugees only be resettled in jurisdictions which have consented to receive refugees. He also ordered an interagency review of these executive orders and any related agency actions, memoranda or guidance and recommendations from the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security on whether such actions should be maintained, reversed, or modified.

President Biden also ordered that the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, along with the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) prepare a report on climate change, its impact on migration, and future refugee crises.

Finally, President Biden ordered the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security to conduct a complete review of the Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs. SIVs are issued to Iraqi and Afghan translators who assisted the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The agencies will then make recommendations to address agency noncompliance with existing law, the reasons for undue delays in adjudication, and guidelines for reconsidering applications which were improperly denied. The agencies are also to consider whether there are other groups that should be provided similar protections.


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