USCIRF Welcomes President Biden’s Announcement to Raise the Refugee Ceiling

May 4, 2021

USCIRF Welcomes President Biden’s Announcement to Raise the Refugee Ceiling

Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes President Joseph R. Biden’s announcement raising the numerical ceiling for refugees accepted from abroad through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to 62,500 for the current fiscal year, which runs until October 1, 2021. According to the announcement, the new admissions cap will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States’ capacity to admit refugees to reach the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions for the coming fiscal year.

The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that religious persecution should be considered in determining the refugee ceiling.

Yesterday’s necessary increase in the refugee ceiling supports the dignity and human rights of the unprecedented number of people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced by religious conflict or persecution,” said USCIRF Chair Anurima Bhargava. “Providing a safe haven for more of these refugees this year protects religious freedom and is consistent with American values.” 

Since the USRAP began in 1980, the maximum number of refugees accepted into the United States has averaged 95,000 per year. Until yesterday’s announcement, the refugee ceiling for the current fiscal year was 15,000, a historic low.

USCIRF has continuously urged an increase in refugee admissions, and we welcome the administration’s action to do so this fiscal year and commitment to a further increase next year. We also urge the administration to prioritize the most vulnerable refugees, which includes survivors of the most egregious forms of religious persecution,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins. “Raising the ceiling with a focus on refugees fleeing religious persecution bolsters the Biden administration’s commitment to international religious freedom.”

USCIRF recommended in its 2021 Annual Report that the U.S. government return the annual ceiling for the USRAP to the previously-typical 95,000. USCIRF held a hearing on “Refugees Fleeing Religious Persecution” in February that examined ways in which the U.S. government could better support refugees and asylum seekers.

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov.