The administration of President Joe Biden wants to nearly double the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 125,000 in the next fiscal year as of Oct. 1 according to a campaign promise, according to a statement from the State Department.
The State Department will consult with the Department of Homeland Security and Congress to lift the cap, which was set at 62,500 for the 2020 fiscal year ending this month, according to the statement.
The plan to dramatically increase refugee admissions comes at a time when tens of thousands of Afghan refugees are on US military bases waiting to be resettled in the United States. Many still at risk were left behind in the chaotic final days of the US forces’ withdrawal.
Biden, a Democrat who took office in January, vowed to reverse course after his predecessor, Republican President Donald Trump, lowered the refugee limit to just 15,000, the lowest level in the history of the modern refugee program.
Biden initially left that level in place, but backed off from criticism from immigration advocates.
Biden has struggled with mixed messages on immigration. Arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border are at 20-year highs, and more recently, thousands of migrants, primarily Haitians, have been deported en masse after setting up a makeshift camp under an international bridge in South Texas.
The refugee program is distinct from the asylum system, in that refugees generally request assistance abroad, are thoroughly vetted, and are then granted legal status and resources to settle in the United States.
Asylum seekers can present themselves to border agents and claim fear of returning, triggering a lengthy judicial process in the U.S. But since March 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of those who cross the border have been quickly expelled under a public health order without the possibility of requesting asylum.