WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is expected to keep the cap on refugees admitted to the country at 125,000 for the next fiscal year, which begins Sunday.
Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Jerrold Nadler, both Democrats, said in a statement Wednesday the administration was keeping the cap the same. The administration consults with Congress on the number. Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the decision before the announcement, confirmed the cap was expected to remain at 125,000.
The cap is the target for how many refugees the United States aims to admit from around the world in any given year, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the U.S. will admit that many. As of the end of August, the U.S. had admitted only about 51,000 of the possible 125,000 for the current fiscal year.
However, refugee advocates have noted that even that figure is a huge increase from where the program was at the end of the Trump administration and have praised government efforts to rebuild the program.
The president decides every year on the refugee cap and signs a declaration laying out which regions of the world they will come from.
“The Biden administration is demonstrating its commitment to the United States’ role in protecting vulnerable refugees by maintaining a refugee cap of 125,000 for Fiscal Year 2024,” said the statement from Jayapal, of Washington, and Nadler, of New York. They also applauded the administration for aiming to resettle more refugees from the Western Hemisphere, but gave no breakdown on those numbers.
For decades, America admitted more refugees each year than all other countries combined, only to fall behind Canada in 2018.
Admissions under the program hit an all-time low of 11,411 arrivals in 2021. But this year has seen a rise in the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. following government efforts to beef up staffing and make more trips — called circuit rides — to foreign countries to interview prospective refugees.
Refugee status is different from other types of protection, such as asylum, humanitarian parole or Temporary Protected Status.
To be admitted as refugees, people have to be living outside the U.S. They are generally referred to the State Department by the U.N.’s refugee agency and then U.S. officials interview and vet them while they’re still abroad. To seek asylum, a person has to be on U.S. soil.
The decision on next year’s refugee cap comes as the U.S. is seeing unprecedented numbers of migrants coming to the southern border, many hoping to seek asylum in the U.S.
The Biden administration has used various paths to admit people into the country or allow them to stay once they get here, such as humanitarian parole or Temporary Protected Status. Just last week the president extended protection to nearly 500,000 Venezuelans already in the country. And the administration has admitted tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion and Afghans airlifted from Afghanistan on humanitarian parole.
But advocates have often argued for greater use of the refugee system in large part because it provides people coming into the country with a long-term pathway to citizenship. People admitted under humanitarian parole, for example, can usually only stay for two years.
Some refugee advocates have been pushing for a slightly higher cap. The Refugee Council USA, which represents nearly 40 groups that advocate for refugees, had advocated for 135,000 with a much more ambitious goal of 200,000 by fiscal year 2026.
Associated Press staffer Colleen Long contributed to this story.