Biden hasn't actually lifted Trump's historically low refugee cap yet, advocates note

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Peter Weber
·2 min read
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President Biden signed an executive order Feb. 4 revoking the historically low cap on refugees and other related restrictions put in place by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and pledged to raise that limit to 125,000 a year. But he "has yet to do one thing that would make all of those changes official: sign what is known as a presidential determination," The Washington Post reported Sunday. Until he does, Trump's cap of 15,000 refugees in the 2020-21 fiscal year will remain in place.

In a report released Friday, the humanitarian nonprofit International Rescue Committee said Biden is on track to admit the fewest number of refugees of any modern president, including Trump. In its first two and a half months, the Biden administration has admitted 2,050 refugees, the IRC said, and without a change in policy, that will result in just 4,510 refugees this fiscal year.

Biden's effort to sharply raise the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. is supposed to take effect in "the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration," which begins in October. Biden "also intends to propose a raise in refugee admissions for this fiscal year, after appropriate consultation with Congress," the White House said in its Feb. 4 fact sheet.

Refugee advocacy groups have "deep concern" about Biden's delay in ramping up refugee resettlement, said Nazanin Ash, the IRC's vice president for global policy and advocacy, and "tens of thousands of already cleared refugees" are stuck "in uncertain limbo." Biden's fiscal 2021-22 budget calls for large increases in refugee resettlement funds, but "refugee advocates say those in limbo often cannot afford to wait weeks, let alone months, until the next fiscal year," the Post reports.

At Friday's White House press briefing, a reporter noted that Biden hasn't formally signed the paperwork on refugees and asked if he's "still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said yes, "the president remains committed to raising the cap."

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