White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on April 16, 2021, that President Joe Biden plans to raise the cap on refugees for fiscal year 2021 by May 15, 2021. The announcement followed a backlash after plans were announced to keep the number of refugee admissions at 15,000, which contradicted earlier statements that the cap would be raised. According to reports, a senior administration official said the cap was lower than anticipated due to a combination of insufficient infrastructure to process refugees and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, the Biden administration had said the FY 2021 cap would be 62,500 and the FY 2022 cap would be 125,000. It remains unclear how much the administration will raise the FY 2021 cap. The allocations announced earlier on April 16 included Africa (7,000), East Asia (1,000), Europe and Central Asia (1,500), Latin America and the Caribbean (3,000), Near East and South Asia (1,500), and an unallocated reserve of 1,000 to be used “where the need for additional admissions arises and to transfer unused allocations from a particular category to one or more other categories” if needed.
A White House statement also said that persons in the following countries “may, if otherwise qualified, be considered refugees for the purpose of admission to the United States within their countries of nationality or habitual residence”: Cuba; Eurasia and the Baltics; Iraq; Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador; and in special circumstances, “persons identified by a United States Embassy in any location or initially referred to the Federal Government by a designated non-governmental organization.”
Ms. Psaki indicated that flights from key regions where refugees are located could begin “within days.”