News & Resources

Press Release: New IRAP Report Discusses Presidential Authority to Increase U.S. Refugee Admissions


January 28, 2021


Henrike Dessaules



(Washington, DC) – Today, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) published a new report that discusses the Presidential authority to increase the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States during the fiscal year. After four consecutive years of sharp cuts, refugee resettlement in the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the creation of the United States Refugee Admissions Program. During his presidential campaign, President Biden reiterated his commitment to set the annual refugee admissions goal to 125,000 refugees – a marked increase from former President Trump’s all-time low target of 15,000 refugees for Fiscal Year 2021.  

The unprecedented decimation of the refugee program raises the question of what can be done by President Biden in the short term to reverse course. With this in mind, IRAP has undertaken a review of the president’s legal authority to admit additional refugees through a revised mid-year presidential determination. 

Today’s report, “Refugee Reset: Mid-Year Increases to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Target,”  explores the relevant legislative history, details past uses of this executive authority, and analyzes the substantive requirements of the process. 

“An important step to restore and rebuild the refugee resettlement program is to increase the refugee admissions target for the remainder of this fiscal year,” said IRAP’s Policy Director, Sunil Varghese. “Our review confirms that the president’s power to admit additional refugees mid-year is precedented, lawful, and in keeping with the powers Congress intended the president to exercise.”

From the report: “An analysis of the Refugee Act of 1980, including an examination of the history that led to its creation and past precedents from multiple and bipartisan administrations, establishes a picture of the president’s broad legal authority to bolster refugee admissions in times of emergency…when an unforeseen situation arises, or a new administration inherits a refugee crisis that the existing annual refugee determination fails to adequately address, 207(b) authorizes the president to act with substantial latitude to protect refugees and advance the national interests of the United States.”

To download the report, “Refugee Reset: Mid-Year Increases to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Target”, click here.

To view the press release, click here.