President Joe Biden on Thursday signed an executive order to increase refugee admissions to 125,000 by next year.
The action reverses policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that lowered refugee admissions from 110,000 during the Obama administration to a historic low of 15,000. Biden’s order also requires “excessive vetting of applicants” in order to raise the cap for the fiscal year 2022.
It states that Biden will propose an increase in refugee admissions for the current fiscal year “after appropriate consultation with Congress.”
“It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do,” Biden said during remarks at the State Department on Thursday.
During his tenure as president, Trump gradually reduced refugee admissions, capping them at 50,000 in 2017, then dropping them to 45,000 for 2018 and 30,000 in 2019, before hitting 18,000 for 2020.
“Over the coming months and years, we will rebuild and expand the US Refugee Admissions Program and other humanitarian programs so they reflect our values as a nation and are commensurate with global need, consistent with our domestic laws and international obligations, as well as our fundamental responsibility for the safety and security of the American people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
In addition to expanding the total number of refugee admissions, Thursday’s executive order will enhance access for women, children and those at risk of persecution due to their gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation as well as review the Special Immigrant Visa Program for Iraqis and Syrians.
Biden also signed a pair of memorandums to protect and promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons throughout the world and modernize national security workforces.
The first memorandum directs relevant federal agencies to “engage constructively to advance protections for the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons abroad” including combating the criminalization of LGBTQI+ status or conduct and requiring annual State Department reports on human rights abuses worldwide.
“Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States will work with like-minded governments and strengthen civil society advocacy to fully support and advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons,” said Binken. “Our international partners can be assured that advancing human rights for all individuals, with no exception or caveat, is a US foreign policy priority.”
The second memorandum seeks to ensure that the U.S. national security community recruits, retains and empowers a workforce that “reflects the unparalleled talent and diversity of our nation.”