Biden to double refugee cap to 125K amid border surge, Afghan evac

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Biden to double refugee cap to 125K amid border surge, Afghan evac

President Biden will increase the limit on the number of refugees who can be resettled in the United States to 125,000 for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the State Department informed Congress Monday.

The new limit is double the current cap of 62,500 refugees, which Biden raised in May from the previous limit of 15,000 set by former President Donald Trump.

The increase comes as Biden faces criticism over the ongoing migration surge at the southwestern border as well as the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan — in which US citizens, legal permanent residents and applicants for special visas meant for those who helped America’s military in the two-decade-long war were left in Taliban-controlled territory.

The Wall Street Journal reports that approximately 40,000 Afghan citizens have been brought to the US in recent days, though none have been formally classified as refugees due to the haste with which they were taken out of Afghanistan.

The White House has asked Congress to change immigration law to allow Afghans brought to the US on temporary humanitarian grounds to receive the same benefits as refugees — including government benefits and automatic qualification for a green card after 12 months.

The State Department report also notes that just 12,500 official refugees are expected to have arrived in the US in fiscal year 2021, with nearly two-thirds of that total coming from Africa. Beginning next month, the report proposes allowing up to 40,000 refugees from Africa, along with 35,000 from the Near East and South Asia, a region which includes Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia on August 31, 2021.
Afghan refugees arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia on August 31, 2021.
Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
A group of migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Africa near Panama as they head towards the United States on July 31, 2021.
A group of migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Africa near Panama as they head towards the United States on July 31, 2021.
Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images

In a statement on Twitter, Amnesty International USA Director Paul O’Brien called on Biden to raise the cap to 200,000 refugees.

“Communities across the United States are ready to welcome their new neighbors, yet
@POTUS continues to lag behind those eager to make this country their new home,” O’Brien wrote. “At a time when thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their home to find safety, and Haitians are seeking safety on the southern border, the very least the United States can do is set a resettlement goal that meets the moment.

“Anything but a robust commitment to humanitarian protections for refugees and asylum-seekers is a dismal failure,” O’Brien added. “Local groups, faith-based institutions, universities, businesses and entire communities have shown greater leadership in welcoming refugees than any we have seen from the White House in recent years. The US can and we must do better.”

Over the weekend, federal officials began removing thousands of Haitians and other migrants from the border town of Del Rio, Texas, where they had set up a massive encampment under a bridge.

“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned Monday. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”

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