As the year ends, we look at the top immigration stories of 2021. During his first year in the White House, President Biden has added some humanity to America’s immigration system, but many issues still need to be addressed.
US-Mexico border and asylum seekers
President Biden ordered a halt to wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border shortly after taking office. In addition to ending border wall construction—former President Donald Trump’s signature project—Biden did, in fact, order Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) halted soon after his January inauguration. The policy, however, was later resumed following a federal judge ruling. While appealing the ruling, the Biden administration reimplemented the policy on December 6, after Mexico agreed to receive returned migrants.
During Trump’s four years in office, the annual ceiling for U.S. refugee admissions was slashed from 85,000 to 15,000.
Biden initially kept the refugee cap at 15,000, the lowest in modern U.S. history, prompting outcries from Democratic allies on Capitol Hill. In May, the administration reversed course and raised the ceiling to 62,500. (U.S. refugee admissions totaled just 11,411 for the 2021 fiscal year, which ended September 30.)
The administration has since raised the 2022 refugee cap to 125,000. Yet actual admissions continue to lag and the White House has admitted that the “goal [of 125,000 admissions] will be hard to hit” despite Biden’s determination to “rebuild” the program and renew “America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world.”