White House Raises Refugee Cap to 125,000 People for 2022

The White House announced Friday that the United States will be increasing the number of refugees allowed into the country next year, setting the cap at 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year.

President Joe Biden said in a memorandum that the increase of refugees "is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest." This increase marks a significant jump in the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. this fiscal year. While admittance was capped at 62,500, the nation only saw 11,411 refugees pass through its borders this fiscal year, per the U.S. State Department.

This number marked the lowest amount of refugees entering the country in 40 years, with more people being admitted even during the previous fiscal year when the world was stricken with the COVID pandemic.

The White House stated that the increased number will be based on predetermined regional allocations and that 10,000 reserve refugees will be allocated on an as-needed basis. The regional allocations are as follows:

Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40,000
East Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,000
Europe and Central Asia . . . . . . . . . . 10,000
Latin America/Caribbean . . . . . . . . . . 15,000
Near East/South Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . 35,000
Unallocated Reserve . . . . . . . . . . . . 10,000

In the same order, Biden also authorized the State Department to transfer potential unused admissions to one or more regions if a humanitarian need arises requiring more refugees from a specific area to be taken in.

"Assistance to or on behalf of persons applying for admission to the United States as part of the overseas refugee admissions program will contribute to the foreign policy interests of the United States and designate such persons for this purpose," the White House said.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks
The White House announced that it was raising the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. in 2022 to 125,000. Above, President Joe Biden gives remarks on the expansion of three national monuments on October 8, 2021, at the White House. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

During his 2020 presidential campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden had made increasing refugee admittance a key part of his foreign policy platform. Under former President Donald Trump, the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S. reached historic lows, with his administration slashing the number to 15,000. The former administration also banned refugees from certain countries, such as Iran, Libya and Somalia.

When Biden took office, he pledged to quickly increase the number of refugee entrances. However, the Biden Administration was initially hesitant to raise the cap, and while he did eventually raise the 2021 ceiling to 62,500, the president admitted that reaching that number in this fiscal year was highly unlikely given "the damage of the last four years."

In the aftermath of the United States' military exit from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover of that country, thousands of Afghan refugees continue to seek asylum in the U.S, putting significant pressure on the White House to drastically increase the refugee cap.

While thousands of refugees did arrive in the U.S. from Afghanistan in the weeks after the withdrawal, there are still thousands of Afghan citizens seeking shelter from the Taliban, and it is unknown how many more will be able to safely flee, either to the United States or neighboring nations.

Per the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980, the president has the authority to change the number of refugees allowed into the country every fiscal year through consultation with Congress. The highest ceiling in modern times was coincidentally that same year when refugee admittance was capped at 231,700.

The U.S. State Department told Newsweek that the U.S. met with Taliban officials on October 9 and 10 to discuss "the continued safe passage out of Afghanistan of U.S. and other foreign nationals."

(Update 10/11/2021, 5 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with comments from the U.S. State Department.