WASHINGTON, May 3 (AFP) - President Joe Biden announced on Monday (May 3), after coming under fierce criticism, that he was raising the maximum number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to 62,500 - up from the 15,000 cap imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump.
The change follows backlash from allies over Biden's earlier decision to keep the Trump-era limits - a politically costly moment of confusion that stood out in a White House notable for its iron discipline in its first three months.
"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," Biden said in a statement.
"The new admissions cap will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States' capacity to admit refugees, so that we can reach the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions that I intend to set for the coming fiscal year."
The course correction was quickly welcomed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is controlled by Biden's Democratic party.
"I welcome the Biden administration's announcement that it will increase the number of refugees allowed to be resettled in the United States. This is an important step in continuing our proud, bipartisan tradition of providing refugees protection through resettlement," the committee chairman, Senator Bob Menendez, tweeted.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a powerful advocacy group, also voiced approval, saying that the country's "reputation" was at stake.
"We are pleased to see President Biden has abandoned the Trump administration's abysmal refugee goal and recommitted to prioritising helping people who are fleeing persecution around the globe," ACLU representative Manar Waheed said.
"We recognise that the goal may not be easy and it requires rebuilding a system that was decimated by the Trump administration, but candidate Biden promised," Waheed said. "He must fulfil that promise, lives are at stake."
Trump clamped down on refugees as part of the hardline border policies at the heart of his nationalist political platform.
Biden campaigned on promises to restore more traditional US attitudes. But he then backtracked after his government ran into difficulties in handling a surge of migrants entering the country illegally, or claiming asylum, at the Mexican border.
Last month, the White House said it needed more time to "rebuild" the post-Trump refugee program and would therefore keep the cap at 15,000 for the year.