Biden wants 125,000 refugees annually, a 733 per cent increase over Trump targets

It's the latest move from the Biden administration to open up the immigration system after years of new roadblocks under Trump

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 04 February 2021 22:15
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Biden delivers first major speech on foreign policy
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President Joe Biden said during a speech at the State Department on Thursday he would bolster US refugee admissions after four years of deep cuts, seeking to raise the annual admissions cap to 125,000 people. That's a more than 700 per cent increase from the Trump administration’s previous targets for the year. 

In October, Mr Trump set a record-low limit of 15,000 refugees for the 2021 fiscal year, less than a fifth of the number of refugees resettled in the last year of the Obama administration.

Mr Biden said during his speech the previous administration had "badly damaged" the US refugee resettlement programme.

"Moral leadership on refugee issues was a point of bipartisan consensus for so many decades," he added.

Owing to a deep backlog of cases, procedural hurdles erected by the Trump administration, and the coronavirus pandemic, the US resettled fewer than 1,000 refugees by the end of December.

Slashing resettlement was a consistent priority of the Trump administration. It shut down the refugee programme entirely when it enacted its initial Muslim travel ban, and continued to curtail its influence with low refugee caps, increased vetting requirements, and travel restrictions on mostly Muslim-majority nations. In 2018, Canada surpassed the US as the country accepting the most refugees.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to review several Trump-era asylum policies, including the Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as "Remain in Mexico", which barred tens of thousands of asylum seekers from crossing into the US until their cases were heard, stranding many in unsanitary camps along the border.

The refugee announcement on Thursday was part of a broader set of foreign policy changes Mr Biden announced in his speech, which promised "diplomacy is back at the centre" of US strategy.

Those included freezing US troop redeployments from Germany, halting US support for the devastating Saudi Arabia-Yemen war, and directing defence secretary Lloyd Austin to conduct a "global force posture review".

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