Biden will welcome 125,000 refugees to the U.S. in first fiscal year

Joe Biden says he will welcome 125,000 refugees to the U.S. in first fiscal year of his administration – far above Trump’s 15,000 limit

  • President Joe Biden announced Thursday his intention to massively increase the cap on annual refugee admissions to the United States
  • At the State Department, he said he would sign an executive order with the aim of 125,000 refugees coming to the U.S. in his first fiscal year 
  • Refugee admissions fell to a historical low under President Donald Trump, with the current cap sitting at 15,000 

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced his intention to massively increase the cap on annual refugee admissions to the United States, which fell to a historical low under Donald Trump.

In line with a campaign promise, Biden said he would set at 125,000 the cap on admissions as part of the country’s refugee resettlement program, against the current 15,000.

‘We offered safe havens for those fleeing violence or persecution’ in previous years, when America’s ‘moral leadership on refugee issues’ encouraged other nations to open their doors as well, Biden said.

‘So today I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need,’ he added.

‘It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do.’

President Joe Biden announced he is raising the cap on refugee admissions to the United States to 125,000 per year, far higher than the cap imposed by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump

Syrian refugees fleeing the Turkish incursion in Northern Syria wait to receive water, bread and lentil soup in October 2019. In 2020, just 6,740 refugees headed to U.S. shores, according to resettlement data by the United Nations refugee agency 

President Donald Trump dramatically decreased the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. during his four years in office as part of his hard-line approach to immigration 

The United States has an extensive history of welcoming refugees and is one of the world’s largest resettlement nations.

But after nearly 79,000 refugees headed to US shores in 2016, the numbers plunged, with just 6,740 arriving in 2020, according to resettlement data by the United Nations refugee agency.

The executive order ‘will raise refugee admissions back up to 125,000 persons for the first full fiscal year of the Biden/Harris administration,’ which begins October 1, the president said.

Biden’s announcement earned swift praise from UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who said it would send a compelling message to other countries to follow suit.

‘The action today by President Biden will save lives. It’s that simple,’ Grandi said in a statement, adding that the expansion shows that ‘strength is rooted in compassion.’

He added that despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 2.2 million people dead worldwide, ‘we remind countries of the life-threatening circumstances that refugees face and encourage them to continue to expand their resettlement programs.’

Biden said he would direct the State Department, where on Thursday he delivered his maiden foreign policy speech as president, to consult with Congress about making a ‘downpayment’ for raising the refugee cap as soon as possible.

The UN estimates that there are 25.9 million refugees worldwide, most of whom are hosted in developing countries.

Biden’s announcement came as he took the podium at the State Department, which was his first cabinet agency visit. 

There, Biden said Russia needed to free Alexei Navalny ‘immediately’ as he said the United States will no longer ‘roll over’ to President Vladimir Putin like ‘my predecessor.’ 

The tough and anti-Trump talk came Thursday when Biden made his first trip to a cabinet agency, the State Department, under the leadership of his longtime aide, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and called for ‘reclaiming our credibility and moral authority.’ 

‘Much of which has been lost,’ Biden uttered. 

There, Biden also said he would ‘take on directly’ the challenges posed the the U.S.’s ‘most serious competitor,’ China. 

‘We’ll confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive coercive action [and] push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance,’ Biden said. 

‘But we’re ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so,’ the new president added. 

Biden made the same point about Russia, explaining why he agreed to extend the START treaty for five years. 

‘To preserve the only remaining treaty between our countries safeguarding nuclear stability,’ Biden said. 

‘At the same time, I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions interfering with our elections, cyber attacks, poisoning its citizens, are over,’ the president said.

Biden spoke with Putin six days into his presidency and said he would not hesitate to ‘raise the cost on Russia’ if need be.  

Biden called Navalny’s imprisonment ‘politically motivated.’ 

‘And the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community,’ Biden said. 

‘Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution,’ the president continued. ‘He’s been targeted targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and without condition.’  

Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, was poisoned in August and then arrested last month for violating parole stemming from a 2014 charge, which had barred him from running for office. 

At the State Department, Biden also took on Myanmar’s coup. 

‘There should be no doubt that in a democracy force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,’ Biden said. ‘The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications and refrain from violence.’   

Throughout his remarks, Biden admitted that he believed the U.S. reputation had been badly damaged by President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ posturing – and by the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill. 

‘Though many of these values have come under intense pressure in recent years, even pushed to the brink in the last few weeks,’ Biden said. ‘The American people are going to emerge from this moment stronger, more determined and better equipped to united the world in fighting to defend democracy, because we have fought for it ourselves.’  

He pointed to some of the first moves he made in office domestically as proof the U.S. was back on track. 

Biden then made the announcement about refugees.  

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