President Joe Biden said on Monday he will raise the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. this year to 62,500, after drawing a wave of criticism from supporters for initially keeping the refugee cap at a historically low level.
Biden formally reversed himself just two weeks after his administration announced it would keep the cap at the 15,000 level set by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, saying it did not reflect American values.
In a statement, Biden said:"It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin."
Soon after taking office in January, Biden pledged to ramp up the program but then surprised allies when he opted to stick with the lower cap -- out of what U.S. officials have said was a concern over bad optics.
It came as a rising number of migrants poured into the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Biden's predecessor Trump steadily slashed the size of the refugee program during his term in office, and Biden officials say the cuts have made quickly raising admissions more difficult.
The refugee program is distinct from the asylum system for migrants. Refugees come from all over the world, many fleeing conflict.
They undergo extensive vetting while still overseas to be cleared for entry to the United States, unlike migrants who arrive at a U.S. border and then request asylum.