President Biden signed an executive order on Thursday to increase refugee admissions and allow 125,000 refugees into the United States during his first fiscal year in office, which starts in October.
The order calls for an expansion of the U.S. refugee program, which had been gutted by the Trump administration. In 2020, Trump cut the available spots for refugees to just 15,000.
“It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do,” said Biden during a speech at the State Department on Thursday.
The U.S. refugee program was created in 1980 with the goal of offering protection to people abroad who have faced persecution. That year, the United States resettled more than 207,000 people. In fiscal year 2020, that number dropped to less than 12,000.
To overhaul the program, the order calls “for more efficient collection and sharing of biometric data, along with interviews via teleconferencing,” said Doug Rand, Boundless co-founder and immigration policy expert. “These are tech-driven opportunities to streamline the whole system and put the President’s goal of 125,000 annual refugee admissions within reach.”
In the order, Biden said his administration will prioritize helping refugee women, children, and others facing persecution for their gender or sexual orientation. It also takes into account migration fueled by climate change.