President Biden recently signed an executive order that addresses the U.S. Refugee Admissions program and other refugee-related issues. This action is intended to help the administration meet its 125,000 annual refugee cap by 2022—a more than 730 percent increase from the Trump administration’s refugee ceiling of 15,000.
Increasing the refugee cap eight-fold comes at the worst time for a number of reasons.
First, the nation is facing a difficult economic situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of Americans remain unemployed. The nation’s limited job openings and government assistance programs must be prioritized to these Americans first.
Next, it is widely known that the cost of refugee settlement to the U.S. is expensive—costing U.S. taxpayers billions— and is an ineffective humanitarian strategy. Instead, efforts should focus on helping displaced populations that might need short-term protection to take shelter as close to their home countries as possible in the expectation of being able to repatriate when conditions allow.
For instance, for what it costs to resettle one Middle Eastern refugee in the United States for five years, about 12 refugees can be sheltered and protected for five years, according to an analysis. This means that resettling refugees abroad would enable our country to assist more individuals, while better protecting our limited government and financial resources.
Raising refugee admissions could also increase the number of specious asylum claims filed in order to enter into the country more easily. The Biden administration has done nothing to address asylum abuse, and is actually encouraging more of it by unraveling enhanced vetting capabilities in its recent order. It also further strains our more than 1.3 million asylum case backlog—where immigration officials have reached their working limits. In fact, FY 2021 began the year with the largest case backlog on record.
American voters are additionally not viewing this order favorably. A new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds that 48 percent of voters oppose the president’s plan to allow 125,00 refugees into the country in the upcoming fiscal year, while only 39% support it. This is the most unpopular executive action so far out of nearly 30 orders signed by President Biden.
While the refugee cap does not have to be reached by a sitting president, it is very likely President Biden meets this figure. As vice president in the Obama administration, the annual ceiling for refugee admissions was reached in each of his last four years in office.
The United States maintains a long-standing reputation of admitting refugees and offering humanitarian assistance worldwide. But our elected officials must make sure that the resources available to assist refugees must be allocated wisely so as to help the greatest number of people, while prioritizing the nation’s interests first.