US President Joe Biden said on Thursday he plans to raise annual refugee admissions to 125,000 in the coming fiscal year, a more than eight-fold increase after former President Donald Trump slashed levels to historic lows.

Biden also called for dozens of changes to US refugee processing and vetting in a detailed executive order that advocates lauded on Thursday. During a speech at the US State Department, the Democratic president said the order would build up the country’s capacity to accept refugees in the face of “unprecedented global need.” Biden has pledged to restore the United States’ historic role as a country that welcomes refugees from around the world after four years of cuts to admissions under Trump. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are 1.4 million refugees worldwide in urgent need of resettlement.

During his presidency, Trump portrayed refugees as a security threat and a drain on US communities as he took a series of measures to restrict legal immigration.

Biden is confronting a refugee program hobbled by Trump’s policies, which led to the closure of resettlement offices and the reassignment of program staffers. Trump’s actions also disrupted the pipeline of refugees to the United States, a situation exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden said the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions – up from 15,000 this year under Trump – would be for the coming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, 2021.


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