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biden immigration policy

Biden pledges to raise refugee cap to 125,000, up from 15,000 under Trump

As he promised before taking office, President Biden announced his intention Thursday to raise the U.S.'s refugee cap.

During a speech full of foreign policy announcements, Biden said he would raise the limit on the number of refugees the U.S. can accept to 125,000. But that won't happen until the beginning of the next fiscal year, and the U.S. will have a large backlog of refugees to contend with once admissions reopen again.

Former President Donald Trump chipped away at the refugee cap throughout his presidency, taking it to a historic low of 15,000 admissions by the time he left office. That cap was set before the start of the 2020-21 fiscal year and will remain in place until October. Biden's cap will meanwhile be larger than former President Barack Obama's highest cap of 110,000 during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Total refugee admissions during Trump's administration often came well under his limits; The U.S. accepted 11,000 refugees in 2019-20, when the cap was 18,000, for example. As of last September, 120,000 refugees were awaiting resettlement in the U.S. It'll take a long time to work through that backlog, as well as to rebuild the U.S.'s immigration system and processes that had atrophied under Trump.