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Biden set to admit the most refugees to the US in nearly 30 years

The new ceiling is more than eight times higher than the one set by Donald Trump.

By Amy Lieu - February 05, 2021
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President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday, raising the refugee admissions cap to a substantially higher limit than that of his predecessor.

Biden is proposing a 125,000 refugee admissions ceiling, over eight times higher than Donald Trump’s cap of 15,000. The new expanded figure is set to take effect on Oct. 1 when the next fiscal year begins.

Biden’s cap is also 15,000 more than those of his Democratic predecessors. During their last years in office, former President Barack Obama set a 110,000 limit, while former President Bill Clinton’s ceiling was 80,000, according to government data.

The new ceiling would also be the highest in nearly 30 years, just under that of former Republican President George H.W. Bush’s 142,000 limit in 1992.

That’s a stark contrast with Trump, who set set the record for the lowest refugee admissions cap since 1980, when the Refugee Act, which among other things established standard annual limits, was first passed.

During his time in office, Trump, with the help of his senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a white supremacist sympathizer, purposefully targeted and decimated the refugee admissions and resettlement program.

In January 2017, one week after taking office, Trump signed an executive order that temporarily froze the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

And even when the Trump administration’s 2020 cap was already at an all-time low of 18,000, Miller led the push for the Trump administration to accept even lower numbers of refugees. He was successful in decreasing the limit by 3,000 for the 2021 fiscal year just before Trump left office.

According to a 2017 New York Times report, Miller suppressed a Department of Health and Human Services study showing a $63 billion revenue surplus generated from accepting refugees over a 10-year period. Instead, the White House insisted that “refugees with few skills coming from war-torn countries take more government benefits from the Department of Health and Human Services than the average population, and are not a net benefit to the U.S. economy,” the paper noted.

Nazanin Ash, International Rescue Committee vice president, told the Washington Post that the Trump administration’s “destruction” of the refugee admissions program was severe.

“The Trump administration was extreme with respect to the refugee admissions program, and they really looked at every possible way to massively alter the demographics and reduce the population and the pipeline of people coming to the United States,” Ash said.

Biden’s decision aligns with his presidential campaign promise to lift the refugee admissions ceiling from the depleted threshhold to the historic high of 125,000, as well as establish an annual minimum of 95,000 refugees admitted.

“The United States has always strived to serve as a beacon of hope — a role model in resettling refugees and leading the humanitarian response abroad,” Biden announced on World Refugee Day on June 20. “Fear-mongering, xenophobia, and racism are the unabashed tenets of Trump’s refugee and immigration policy … but we will not, and we cannot, allow hate and rage to divide us further.”

Advocates have applauded the move.

“For four long years, immigrants and refugees bore the brunt of Trump and Stephen Miller’s diabolical policies,” said Sergio Gonzales, interim executive director of Immigration Hub, which advocates for fair immigration policy, in a statement on Tuesday.

He added that the actions “reaffirm our commitment and standing as a country that welcomes refugees and allows us to begin establishing immigration policies that align with our values.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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