Biden Administration on Track to Increase Refugee Resettlement This Year but Falls Far Short of Cap

Austin Kocher, PhD
4 min readJun 13, 2022

The Biden administration is on track to increase the number of refugees admitted into the United States from about 11,400 last year in FY 2021 to about 19,000 by the end of this fiscal year in September. This is higher than last year, but still far below resettlement numbers in the past 20 years and also far below the refugee cap that the administration set for itself.

Shortly after taking office, President Biden announced an executive order aimed at “Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees”. The use of the term “rebuilding” here is key to how the Biden administration has framed refugee resettlement. The Trump administration reduced the refugee cap to the lowest point in history in FY 2020 by reducing it to just 18,000, which cut federal staffing and cut funding to the national network of resettlement partners. The Biden administration has framed its own low refugee resettlement numbers as a consequence of the Trump administration’s dismantling of the system.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Trump administration’s legacy is a big factor here, but I wonder how much the administration is using this factor as cover for other internal issues. I really do mean “wonder” because I don’t pay close enough attention to the everyday politics of the Department of State to have a more detailed picture. If you have insight or a link to more information, feel free to leave a comment.

The administration is aware that it will fall short. In May 2022, Julieta Valls Noyes who runs the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (in the State Department) told Foreign Policy that the administration is expected to settle some 20,000 to 25,000 refugees in total for the fiscal year. That may still be possible, but even at this reduced goal, it would still require the government to resettle more refugees each month than they have done so far this year.

One obvious caveat is that the US has taken in about 70,000 Afghans and plans to accept about 100,000 Ukrainians under a humanitarian program — two large groups that aren’t included in these numbers.

Despite these caveats, official resettlement numbers appear to remain relatively low in FY 2022, certainly…

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Austin Kocher, PhD

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at austinkocher.com.