Hannah Miao, CNBC, February 4, 2021
President Joe Biden announced Thursday he plans to raise the cap on the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. as he inherits a resettlement program whittled down by former President Donald Trump.
When Trump took office in 2017, the refugee ceiling for the fiscal year set by President Barack Obama stood at 110,000. Trump left office after setting a cap of just 15,000 for the current fiscal year — the lowest level since the passage of the Refugee Act in 1980.
Biden pledged to increase the annual refugee admissions cap to 125,000 in the 12-month period starting Oct. 1. The president must consult Congress before setting the annual limit.
The decline in the number of refugee arrivals over the course of Trump’s presidency has gutted the country’s resettlement infrastructure, with agencies shuttering offices and laying off staff. Roughly a third of local resettlement offices across the country closed or suspended operations as of April 2019, according to an October report by the Penn Biden Center.
The U.S. had led the world in refugee resettlements since 1980, until Canada took the top spot in 2018 and 2019, according to the latest United Nations reports.
Fewer than 1,000 refugees were processed by the end of December 2020 under Trump’s 15,000-person cap, State Department data shows.