America’s Refugee Limit: A Promise to Raise the Cap

By Isabella Talamantes and Yuxin Waitkus-Tsang


Costas Baltas/Reuters


Hundreds of thousands of refugees enter the U.S. every year. Which may lead one to wonder why entering this country is so appealing? Well, educational opportunities, constitutional freedoms, and the promise of The “American Dream” makes the United States extremely attractive to people coming from underdeveloped countries. However, disagreements over what an “American” truly is, along with fears, stereotypes, and the process of entering the country, have caused discrimination and racism to rise – along with controversy surrounding the topic of just how many refugees should be allowed entry into the country. Discrimination has affected generation after generation of immigrants and refugees, and has slowly made it harder and harder for people who view the U.S. as a safe haven to actually see it that way. This, in turn, begs the question “what policies and regulations are in place today?”


Former president, Donald Trump, had a very strong opinion regarding refugees entering into the United States. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. According to the government, a refugee is “a person outside the U.S. seeking refuge. The United States, based on international law, defines 'refugee' as a person outside the country of his or her nationality, who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

  2. During his time in office, Trump decreased the amount of illegal and legal immigrants entering the country. One of Trump’s goals, regarding this conversation of immigration and refugees, was lowering the number of refugees admitted into the United States, to an all time low of 15,000. This was the lowest the refugee cap had ever been since the Refugee Act of 1980. Not only did Trump lower the number, but he generally made it very hard for refugees and immigrants to become citizens of America. Trump’s justification for lowering the number was that America needs to focus on its own people before bringing more into the country. Despite additional rationales that seemed fairly reasonable at first, there was an underlying level of racism and bias that was a part of Trump’s decisions regarding immigration. He claimed that many immigrants were rapists, drug dealers, criminals etc., all because of his view on race and religion.

This moment left America wondering whether the next president would keep or raise this historical low restriction on refugees entering the United States.


In February, just after Biden took office, he promised to raise the limit on refugee admissions. However, two months passed and no further steps to reverse Trump's policy were made, and Biden had yet to sign a presidential agreement allowing more refugees to enter the U.S. On April 16th, he announced that he would not be raising the amount. This announcement was largely criticized, as Biden had promised to reverse what our former president, Donald Trump had done, only to go back on his word. After facing major backlash from many democrats and activists, the administration amended their statement saying they would raise the cap on the amount of refugee entries in May. As May is just around the corner, we can only hope that President Biden will deliver and the appropriate change will be made. Change that America, and people all across the world, desperately need.


Sources: Links for America's Refugee Limit: A Promise to Raise the Cap