Biden said he received additional information that led him to sign the emergency presidential determination setting the cap at 62,500.
“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin,” Biden stated before signing it.
Biden said Trump’s cap “did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”
But he acknowledged the “sad truth” that the U.S. would not meet the 62,500 cap by the end of the fiscal year in September, given the pandemic and limitations on the country’s resettlement capabilities — some of which his administration has attributed to the Trump administration’s policies to restrict immigration.
The White House insisted it was unable to act until now because the administration was being taxed by a sharp increase in unaccompanied young migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arriving at the southern U.S. border, though any link between the border and the government’s decision on refugees was not immediately clear. Refugee advocates, including Durbin, accused Biden of playing politics.
Biden said Monday it was important to lift the number to show “America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world.”
It also paves the way for Biden to boost the cap to 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year that starts in October.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said work is being done to improve U.S. capabilities to process refugees in order to accept as many of them as possible under the new cap. Since the fiscal year began last Oct. 1, just over 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the U.S.
Travel preparations are being made for more than 2,000 refugees who were excluded by Trump’s presidential determination on Oct. 27, 2020.