Immigration Policy Brief #122

After Intense Pressure Biden Raises Refugee Cap from Historically Low Trump Administration Figures

By Kathryn Baron

May 14, 2021 

Policy Summary

Under the Trump Administration, the US held a historically low refugee cap of 15,000. On the campaign trail President Biden  vowed to increase the limit for this fiscal year to 62,500 and ideally, to 125,000 for the following year. Biden emphasized the low Trump-era cap did not accurately depict America’s values as a “nation that welcomes and supports refugees.”

However several weeks ago Biden reversed course and said the US would keep the Trump-era level of only 15,000. After facing intense backlash from Democrats and civil society, Biden agreed to increase the number.  His ability to reverse course reflects Biden’s flexibility and willingness to respond positively to those who disagree with him.


Biden now says that  the US will admit 62,500 refugees in this fiscal year but cautions that that that this target is a ceiling. However he vows to nearly double the 62,500 number in following years. The US will accept the most refugees from Africa (around 22,000) for this fiscal year.

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.


  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.




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