‘We’re Going To Increase The Number’ Biden Now Says Of Refugee Cap

President Joe Biden speaks briefly to reporters on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on February 16, 2021. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

After wavering, President Joe Biden said on Saturday that he will move to increase the nation’s refugee cap, although it remains unclear by how much.

“We’re going to increase the number,” Biden told pool reporters on Saturday. “The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people. We couldn’t do two things at once. But now we are going to increase the number.”

The comments come after deputy national security adviser Jon Finer reportedly made clear to refugee resettlement advocates during a Friday night call that Biden plans to work quickly to bring refugees who have already been vetted and cleared to the United States, per CNN sources.

Two people on the call also told the Washington Post that Finer had stressed that the administration would try to resettle refugees as soon as possible, rather than spreading out the admissions until Sept. 30.

The moves laid out on the call, were part of plans to get ahead of a new deadline that the White House set on Friday to increase the cap on refugees by May 15, amid backlash for initially preserving a historically-low Trump-era refugee ceiling.

Biden had faced swift and strong criticism from refugee advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers for initially signing an order on Friday that would keep in place a Trump-era limit on U.S. refugee admissions for the fiscal year.

The order had initially kept in place a 15,000 cap — setting aside an earlier pledge to allow up to 62,500 refugees to enter the country in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 and setting off a wave of criticism.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement amid the furor saying that the administration would set a “final, increased refugee cap” by next month but warned that the new limit was not likely to reach the levels Biden had initially put forward.

“Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” she said.

Finer reportedly echoed Psaki’s claim that the Biden White House had been left with a refugee admissions program was “even more decimated than we thought,” citing reduced staffing to oversee processing capacity and a security vetting process that’s slow moving, a CNN source familiar with the call said.

According to the New York Times, during his first foreign policy speech in February, Biden said he would raise the refugee ceiling to 125,000 in the 2021 fiscal year.

Finer reportedly told callers that the 125,000 figure that Biden had previously mentioned was an “aspirational number” and while it remains the administration’s goal it is going to be “a major challenge,” CNN said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) who spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya as a child before coming to the United States, had criticized the stringent cap, but praised the White House’s decision to reconsider later on Friday.

“Now we will work to make sure the cap isn’t too low, meets the scale of the refugee crisis and our obligations for refugee resettlement,” Omar tweeted.

Latest News

Notable Replies

  1. White House officials signaled in a conference call with advocates for refugee resettlement on Friday night that after wavering, President Joe Biden is now likely to move quickly to increase the nation’s refugee cap


    But as always, the proof is in the pudding.

  2. It is good to have a government that can feel shame

  3. One damn good reason to increase the ceiling on Refugees or other immigrants is last November Central America got hammered by hurricanes back to back which wiped out houses, villages, roads, killed 200 people, destroyed crops and food storage facilities such that folks have no shelter and do not know where their next meal will be coming from. These things tend to make people migrate to where they think food and shelter are. That is a big reason for the huge numbers of folks looking for help. They don’t want to leave their countries on a lark or a vacation… they’re trying to live.
    Maybe my 52 years of living near the border have colored my viewpoint. I don’t see people as “the Other” coming to rape and pillage and steal jobs. I don’t care what color someone’s skin is, I care about character. I guess that’s a rejected concept.

  4. Another one is that between now and September 11, we’ll likely see a tidal wave of Afghan refugees.

    (And we should never, ever turn our backs on those who helped America, and who – along with their families – will surely be targeted for death after we depart.)

  5. So the issue is capacity to deliver.

    That, and the resettlement team was deployed to help the kids at the border.

    *pet peeve of mine. Decimated means reduced by a tenth. The word dismantled or debilitated are more suitable.

Continue the discussion at forums.talkingpointsmemo.com

141 more replies


Avatar for daytrader Avatar for mattinpa Avatar for cervantes Avatar for sandyh Avatar for lastroth Avatar for grandpajoe Avatar for fiftygigs Avatar for darrtown Avatar for thunderclapnewman Avatar for tena Avatar for tsp Avatar for castor_troy Avatar for lisaaug Avatar for cub_calloway Avatar for maximus Avatar for carolson Avatar for dougsanders Avatar for visionseeker Avatar for Thane Avatar for LeeHarveyGriswold Avatar for Scoutmom Avatar for Psych Avatar for xcopy Avatar for geographyjones

Continue Discussion
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: