AOC, Progressives Urge Biden to Raise Refugee Cap to 200,000 Amid Afghanistan Crisis

Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Barbara Lee of California, joined by dozens of congressional colleagues, sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday urging him to raise the annual refugee cap substantially in 2022 amid the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and other places around the world.

Lee and Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the letter that the refugee cap for 2022 should be set at "no less than 200,000." This would be an increase of nearly 140,000 from the cap of 62,500 set by Biden for 2021. It would also be many thousands more than the 125,000 the president has previously said he wants to raise it to in 2022.

"As the people of Afghanistan face an unfolding tragedy, the United States must open its doors to refugees fleeing the devastating consequences of a 20-year U.S. military intervention and 40 years of U.S. involvement in the war," the progressive members of Congress wrote.

"To ensure their safety, we urge you to increase the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program cap to no less than 200,000 when you issue your Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 before October 1st. We also urge you to expand humanitarian parole to provide refuge to vulnerable Afghans who are in grave danger following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan."

As the people of Afghanistan face a humanitarian crisis, we must open our doors to refugees fleeing the consequences of a 40-year U.S.-fueled war.

Today, @RepAOC and I called on @POTUS to increase the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program cap. pic.twitter.com/sU1iesEPjf

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) August 26, 2021

The Democratic lawmakers pointed to the conflict in Ethiopia, the economic collapse of Lebanon and the multiple crises facing Haiti to support their request. They wrote that climate change is exacerbating the world's refugee crisis by "destroying homes and ruining crops," noting that "displacement is on the rise."

"Humanitarian parole must also be extended to other vulnerable groups in Afghanistan, including women's rights activists, human rights defenders, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and journalists," the members of Congress wrote. In total, 66 lawmakers signed the letter addressed to the president.

Under former President Donald Trump, who campaigned in 2016 by vilifying immigrants, the refugee cap was reduced to just 15,000. In May, Biden announced that it would be raised to 62,500.

"The new admissions cap will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States' capacity to admit refugees, so that we can reach the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions that I intend to set for the coming fiscal year," Biden said in an official statement at the time.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military continues to rapidly evacuate Americans and Afghan refugees from Kabul's international airport in the wake of the Taliban's swift takeover of the country.

Since August 14, the U.S. and its partners have managed to evacuate more than 105,000 people from Afghanistan. Of those, about 4,500 were Americans, while it's unclear how many have been Afghan nationals. Estimates suggest that 100,000 to 300,000 Afghan nationals need to be evacuated due to their work with the U.S. and its allies during the past two decades of war.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Afghan refugees
Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Barbara Lee of California, joined by dozens of congressional colleagues, sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday urging him to raise the annual refugee cap substantially in 2022 amid the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and other places around the world. Above, Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport on August 27 in Virginia, after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images