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Biden says he will raise refugee cap to 62,500 following backlash

Washington would not, however, likely admit that many refugees this year due to "damage of the last four years"
Biden said he submitted a budget to Congress that reflects a goal of admitting 125,000 refugees.
Biden said he submitted a budget to Congress that reflected a goal of admitting 125,000 refugees (AFP)
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The Biden administration on Monday announced that it would be raising its cap on the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 62,500 for this fiscal year, having backtracked on its earlier limit of 15,000 following outrage from rights groups and Democrats in Congress.

"The new admissions cap will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States' capacity to admit refugees, so that we can reach the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions that I intend to set for the coming fiscal year," Biden said in a statement.

Still, the president noted that the United States would likely not admit that many refugees this year, saying it was working to "undo the damage of the last four years", referring to the administration of President Donald Trump.

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"The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year," the statement read.

Monday's announcement comes after a wave of confusion had marked Biden's refugee policy in the past several weeks.

Last month, the administration announced it was keeping the Trump-era cap on refugee resettlements to 15,000 for the fiscal year 2021.

The decision was met with outcry from immigration groups and Democratic lawmakers, who called the decision "unconscionable" and "shameful".

Then, just hours later, the administration announced it would "set a final, increased refugee cap", in what seemed to be a reversal of the earlier policy.

White House Secretary Jen Psaki said there was no discrepancy between the two announcements and that the administration did not change its position after facing pressure from Congress and allies.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) reported last month that the US was on track to admit the lowest number of refugees ever recorded, with only 2,050 refugees having been admitted at the time of the report's release.

The IRC report noted that if the White House continued on its current trajectory, the US would admit only 4,510 refugees during FY2021, less than half the number from the last year of the Trump administration.

In the White House statement, Biden said he submitted a budget to Congress that reflected a goal of admitting 125,000 refugees, but added that the "goal will still be hard to hit" and it "might not make it the first year".

The announcement also comes a week after 34 Senate Democrats sent a letter, led by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, urging Biden to raise the refugee cap to 62,500 for this year, and then double for the next year.