Biden Administration Announcements on Refugees Are Welcome News

WASHINGTON — In the first days of the Biden administration, HIAS has been encouraged by the new president’s swift and positive actions to welcome refugees. His pledge today to raise the annual refugee admissions cap in consultation with Congress is another much-needed step toward repairing the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and making our immigration system more humane.

The annual refugee admissions cap — also called the Presidential Determination, or PD — was cut during every year of the Trump administration, setting a new record low each time. For Fiscal Year 2021, the PD stood at just 15,000. President Biden has promised to consult with Congress and raise the PD before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, allowing more people in desperate need of safety to come to the United States as quickly as possible. The administration has said it will fulfill President Biden’s campaign promise to raise the PD to 125,000, its highest level in more than two decades, during FY22.

“President Biden has stated formally and in no uncertain terms that U.S. humanitarian leadership is back,” said Melanie Nezer, HIAS’ senior vice president of public affairs. “Rebuilding the resettlement system the prior administration nearly broke won’t be easy. The refugee resettlement program must bring people to safety, protect national security, and integrate people across the country, all in a contentious political environment and during a global pandemic. Despite these challenges, the president has made clear he intends to get there. We’ll do all we can to help — and to hold the administration accountable.”

The White House additionally issued an executive order to strengthen the U.S. resettlement program. Among other steps, the administration will undertake a thorough review of the resettlement program’s security. It will also designate a senior White House official to coordinate the federal agencies and vetting partners involved with the resettlement program. In addition, the order signals the administration’s recognition of the urgent need to develop clear protection options for those forced to migrate because of climate change.

“The president’s announcement represents a major shift from the prior administration,” Nezer said. “The goal of refugee vetting for the Trump administration was to keep people out. The goal of the Biden administration is to help some of the world’s most vulnerable find safety.” 

HIAS is greatly encouraged by today’s announcements. We look forward to welcoming increased numbers of new arrivals as quickly as possible and working with the Biden administration to repair and improve refugee resettlement in the United States.


HIAS is the international Jewish humanitarian organization that provides vital services to refugees and asylum seekers in 16 countries. We advocate for the rights of all forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives and seek to create a world in which they find safety, opportunity, and welcome.


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