Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Signs read: "Refugees Welcome" and "One World One Family"

President Joe Biden's executive order Thursday represented "a marked and promising shift from the Trump administration's callous disregard for human life and hatred for refugees—most of whom are Black and Brown immigrants, including Muslims," said the ACLU's Manar Waheed. (Photo: Ilias Bartolini/flickr/cc)

Rejecting Trump's "Callous Disregard for Human Life," Biden Significantly Raises Refugee Cap

"The action today by President Biden will save lives. It's that simple."

Andrea Germanos

Human rights organizations welcomed President Joe Biden's executive order Thursday significantly raising the cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country.

"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 Thursday.

"How quickly and how comprehensively we are able to welcome our new neighbors will decide just how bright our future can be."
—Bob Goodfellow, Amnesty International USA
Former President Donald Trump—whose administration was marked by xenophobic policies—set the ceiling for refugee admissions at a record low 15,000, a move that elicited fierce criticism from rights groups.

Biden announced his intention to raise the cap to 125,000, called for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to "be rebuilt and expanded," revoked Trump's orders blocking refugee resettlement, and directed federal agencies to look into climate-related impacts on refugees and displacement.

According to Manar Waheed, senior legislative and advocacy counsel for the ACLU, the order reflects "a marked and promising shift from the Trump administration's callous disregard for human life and hatred for refugees—most of whom are Black and Brown immigrants, including Muslims."

"However," Waheed added, "we know that for this announcement to be fully realized, there is a lot of work to do."

After being "decimated" by the previous administration, she said, the nation's refugee system "must be rebuilt fairly, effectively, and efficiently to fulfill its legal and moral responsibilities so people can seek safety in the United States per our immigration laws."

Refugees International president Eric Schwartz also welcomed the order, saying it "recognizes the importance of a program that saves lives, unites families, and contributes so much to American life."

The Trump term was "slashing... refugee resettlement numbers in the United States even as global refugee numbers continued to climb," said Schwartz. He expressed hope Biden's announcement would be the first of "many contributions to rebuilding the refugee resettlement infrastructure in the United States and restoring the leadership of the United States in support and protection for refugees.”

Bob Goodfellow, interim executive director of Amnesty International USA, looked ahead at broader changes still needed to strengthen refugee protections.

"The question today before a new administration and a reorganized Congress... is about the lives, well-being, and human rights of people around the world and about our shared future together. How quickly and how comprehensively we are able to welcome our new neighbors will decide just how bright our future can be," said Goodfellow.

He also called on the U.S. government to "invest in our shared future including [through] humanitarian programs, family reunification, a private sponsorship model, and expanded community involvement in resettlement through robust promotion of other community sponsorship programs."

"The United States must take the first step forward together," he continued, "though acceptance of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees referrals, request additional funds from Congress to allow for increased refugee admissions, and provide financial support to international organizations working to address refugees' needs and rights."

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, for his part, put the impact of Biden's order in clear terms.

"The action today by President Biden will save lives," he said in a statement Thursday. "It's that simple."

The Thursday order follows a number of other immigration-related actions the Biden administration has taken in its first month, including creating a task force to help reunify families separated under Trump's "zero tolerance" policy and recission of the Muslim ban.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

AOC Slams Conservative Dems Who Would Rather Skip Town Than Vote to Extend Eviction Ban

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority."

Jake Johnson ·

'A Devastating Failure': Eviction Ban Expires as House Goes on Vacation and Biden Refuses to Act

"We’re now in an eviction emergency," said Rep. Cori Bush. "Eleven million are now at risk of losing their homes at any moment. The House needs to reconvene and put an end to this crisis."

Jake Johnson ·

With Election Days Away, Bernie Sanders Headlines Get-Out-the-Vote Rally for Nina Turner

In his keynote speech, Sanders said corporate interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat Turner because "they know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."

Jake Johnson ·

Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·

As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·