Updated: March 1, 2021
At a CNN town hall event with Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he was willing to support legislation aimed at increasing intake and support of refugees in the United States.
On February 4, the president signed an executive order increasing the refugee admissions cap from 15,000 to 125, 000 and advancing the rights of LGBTQI+ persons in the world. But an executive order can always be reversed by the next president.
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“We used to allow refugees – 125,00 refugees in the United States in a yearly basis. It was as high as 250,000. Trump cut it to 5,000,” the president said. In reality, the number was about 15,000 when Trump left office on January 20, ten times less than when he was inaugurated in 2017.
President Biden conjured images of the difficulties faced by refugees, “Come with me into Sierra Leone. Come with me into parts of Lebanon. Come with me around the world and see people piled up in camps, kids dying, no way out, refugees fleeing from persecution. We, the United States, used to do our part. We were part of that. We were – and, you know that’s – you know, “send me your huddled masses.” Come on.”
The Trump Administration lowered the number of refugees admitted to the United States every year it held power. According to data from Pew Research, the US admitted less refugees during the Trump administration than 2016. Furthermore, the decrease in acceptance came as the world experiences, as reported by the UN, “the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2018. Among them are nearly 30 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.”
President Biden has already signed an executive order to begin work on raising the refugee cap to 62,500 for the upcoming fiscal year and to 125,500. This is an increase from the current cap of 15,000 and much closer to the last cap set by President Obama of 110,000. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi expressed support for the move as his agency projected 1.4 million refugees are in need of asylum urgently.
The President also talked about in the importance of the United States standing up for human rights when asked about the rights of Uyghurs in Western China. Biden said he recently spoke to President Xi Jinping for over two hours, with human rights being a discussed topic. The two leaders have known each other a long time, as both were vice president of their respective nations at the same time. As Biden referred to during the town hall, he visited Asia where he traveled over 17,000 miles with Xi.
President Biden’s willingness to embrace human rights, which includes a commitment to taking in refugees, brings relief to a countless number of displaced people around the world. The United States is signaling its return to the world stage in a leading role.