Washington, May 4
US President Joe Biden has raised the cap for refugee admissions into the country to 62,500, in a U-turn that more than quadruples the limit set by his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden had previously set this year's refugee admissions level at 15,000, maintaining the cap set by Trump, but after receiving criticism in April he walked it back.
"Today, I am revising the US' annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year," Biden said in a Monday statement.
"This erases the historically low number set by the previous administration of 15,000, which did not reflect America's values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.
"The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions" to be reached this fiscal year, which ends September 30, the President said.
"We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway."
The Trump administration's 15,000 cap was the lowest since the introduction of the US refugee programme in 1980.
The previous limit for the last fiscal year was 18,000.
In 2016, then-president Barack Obama's last full year in office, about 85,000 refugees were allowed into the US.
Trump lowered the limit in 2017, his first in office, and about 53,000 refugees were let in, according to a report issued last year by the Department of Homeland Security.
Monday's announcement came as the White House, which faced an exacerbating influx of migrants on the southern border, backtracked in mid-April after an emergency determination signed at the time by Biden to keep the cap as it was drew immediate criticism from refugee groups and Democratic lawmakers.
They deplored the administration's sudden and significant reversal from its own commitment made in February to lift the annual maximum to 62,500.
The number of refugees admitted into the US this fiscal year stood at only 2,050 as of March 31, according to the State Department's Refugee Processing Center.
More than 100 days into his presidency, Biden scored one of his lowest marks in polls for his handling of the immigration issue.
His remarks last month admitting the situation on the southern border was a "crisis" forced the White House to downplay his use of words, saying the labelling did not indicate a change in the administration's official position.