On Refugee Numbers, Biden Makes 3 Errors in 12 Seconds

By Patrick Goodenough | February 18, 2021 | 3:28am EST
President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Tuesday night. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Tuesday night. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – In the space of 12 seconds during his CNN town hall in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, President Joe Biden made three separate errors when talking about refugee admissions to the United States.

“We used to allow refugees, 125,000 refugees into the United States in a yearly basis,” he said. “It was as high as 250,000. Trump cut it to 5,000.”

“Come with me into Sierra Leone,” Biden continued. “Come with me into parts of Lebanon. Come with me around the world and see people piled up in camps, kids dying, no way out, refugees fleeing from persecution. We, the United States, used to do our part. We were part of that. We were – and, you know, that’s – you know, ‘send me your huddled masses.’  Come on.”

 

Biden is correct in saying that President Trump slashed refugee admission numbers to record-low numbers. But all three figures he gave were off the mark.

--Over the years since the modern-day refugee admission program was established in 1980, the highest number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S. in any one year was 207,116, in fiscal year 1980, according to the numbers published by the State Department. It was not 250,000, as Biden asserted. (Even had he been referring to the ceiling rather than the actual number of admissions, the highest ceiling ever set, by the Carter administration for FY 1980, was 231,700, not “as high as 250,000.”)

--Biden said the U.S. “used to allow … 125,000 refugees into the United States in a yearly basis.”  In fact, according to the State Department, over the 42 years since the Refugee Act was enacted in 1980, the U.S. admitted 125,000 or more refugees only three times – in fiscal years 1980 (207,116 refugees), 1981 (159,252 refugees), and 1992 (132,531 refugees). The average number of refugees admitted a year over that 42-year period stands at 88,207.

--Biden said Trump reduced the number of refugee admissions to 5,000. In fact, the lowest number of refugees resettled in the U.S. during the Trump presidency was 11,814, in FY 2020. Of the five years accounting for the smallest number of refugee admissions since 1980, three were under Trump – fiscal years 2020 (11,814 refugees), 2018 (22,517 refugees) and 2019 (30,000 refugees) – and two under President George W. Bush – fiscal years 2002 (27,131 refugees) and 2003 (28,403 refugees).

Biden has pledged to set a cap of 125,000 refugee admissions in FY 2022, which begins on October 1 this year. He is also expected to increase the admission ceiling for the current fiscal year to some 62,500, up from the 15,000 cap set by Trump last fall.

During his presidency Trump was frequently criticized or mocked for giving exaggerated or inaccurate figures during speeches or interviews.

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