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Advancing America’s long tradition of welcoming refugees
February 10, 2021

Syrian refugee Mahmoud Mansour, 47, helps his youngest daughter Sahar, 8, with her homework at his rented apartment in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021
Syrian refugee Mahmoud Mansour, 47, helps his youngest daughter Sahar, 8, with her homework at his rented apartment in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden has vowed to restore America’s place as a world leader in offering sanctuary to the oppressed by raising the cap on the number of refugees allowed in each year. Mansour’s family had completed the work to go to the United States when the Trump administration issued its travel ban barring people from Syria indefinitely and suspending the refugee program for 120 days. (AP Photo/Omar Akour)


President Biden is ensuring the United States remains a safe haven for refugees and that those who apply to immigrate to the country under humanitarian programs are treated with dignity and respect.

In a February 4 executive order, Biden took steps to strengthen the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), a collaboration between government and community groups that reflects America’s core value of taking in the persecuted.

“The long tradition of the United States as a leader in refugee resettlement provides a beacon of hope for persecuted people around the world,” Biden says in the order.

Biden calls for expanding refugee admissions to help address the global need, emphasizing the significant contribution of refugees to American society. The order also calls for minimizing processing delays in USRAP and other humanitarian programs that bring vulnerable people to the United States, adding that delays raise humanitarian concerns and are counter to U.S. national interests.

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 07: A supporter waits at O’Hare Airport for Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf and her family to arrive on a flight from Istanbul, Turkey at O’Hare Airport on February 7, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Khalaf had spent the last five years in a refugee camp in Turkey. Her trip to the United States, with her husband and young daughter, was recently suspended after President Donald Trump signed an executive order stopping Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


Access to U.S. humanitarian programs is discretionary, though the order notes that all who apply should be treated with dignity and respect.

The order calls for U.S. refugee and aid programs to:

  • Enhance access to the refugee program for those at greatest risk of persecution, including women and children, or those at risk of persecution because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Explore all available authorities for humanitarian protection for those who do not qualify as refugees under the USRAP.
  • Capitalize on community and private sponsorship of refugees, while continuing to partner with resettlement agencies.

Additionally, Biden asked the national security adviser to study the impact of climate change on migration and identify options for the protection and resettlement of individuals, as well as proposals for how U.S. foreign assistance can mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a February 4 statement that Biden’s order sends a message that refugees are welcome in the United States. The president’s direction will spur innovation and focus technical expertise to better detect fraud and streamline processing and decision-making, he added.

“Over the coming months and years, we will rebuild and expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and other humanitarian programs so they reflect our values as a nation,” Blinken said. “I share the President’s ambitious vision for restoring these critical elements of U.S. leadership in humanitarian affairs globally at a time when the world’s most vulnerable people need us the most.”