Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats Urge Biden to Dramatically Increase Refugee Admissions

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 16, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Reuters)

A group of more than 30 Senate Democrats on Tuesday urged President Biden to dramatically increase the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. this year and next.

A group of 34 senators led by Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) wrote a letter to the White House calling on Biden to raise the cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 for the current fiscal year and to more than double it to 125,000 for the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

The senators’ letter said the U.S. “must reject the previous administration’s cruel legacy of anti-refugee policies and return to our longstanding bipartisan tradition of providing safety to the world’s most vulnerable refugees.” 

The group of senators included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y) and Senators Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Chris Coons (Del.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.) and Raphael Warnock (Ga.), among others.

The letter comes after Biden faced a firestorm of criticism from fellow Democrats earlier this month when he declined to raise the Trump administration’s refugee cap of 15,000-per-year, prompting reports that he had abandoned an earlier pledge to raise the cap. The White House pulled an about-face hours later after significant pushback from Democrats and immigration activists, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claiming that the president’s earlier directive had been the subject of “some confusion.”

In a reversal, she claimed that Biden would look to announce a higher ceiling than 15,000 in May, though it will be difficult to meet the president’s initial goal of allowing 62,500 refugees into the country this year because of changes imposed by Trump.

The president is reportedly considering raising the cap to allow 62,500 refugees into the country through September, according to the Washington Post. Psaki has said it will be “challenging” to do so.

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