Man sitting with little girl who is writing in notebook on table (© Omar Akour/AP Images)
President Biden is vowing to expand the United States' acceptance of refugees. A Syrian refugee in Amman, Jordan, helps his daughter with homework. (© Omar Akour/AP Images)

President Biden is ensuring the United States remains a safe haven for refugees and that those who apply to immigrate to the country under humanitarian programs are treated with dignity and respect.

In a February 4 executive order, Biden took steps to strengthen the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), a collaboration between government and community groups that reflects America’s core value of taking in the persecuted.

“The long tradition of the United States as a leader in refugee resettlement provides a beacon of hope for persecuted people around the world,” Biden says in the order.

Biden calls for expanding refugee admissions to help address global need, emphasizing the significant contribution of refugees to American society. The order also calls for minimizing processing delays in USRAP and other humanitarian programs that bring vulnerable people to the United States, adding that delays raise humanitarian concerns and are counter to U.S. national interests.

Person holding "Welcome Home" sign with American flag illustration on it (© Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A supporter waits for Syrian refugees arriving at O’Hare Airport in Chicago from Istanbul in February 2017. (© Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Access to U.S. humanitarian programs is discretionary, though the order notes that all who apply should be treated with dignity and respect.

The order calls for U.S. refugee and aid programs to:

  • Enhance access to the refugee program for those at greatest risk of persecution, including women and children, or those at risk of persecution because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Explore all available authorities for humanitarian protection for those who do not qualify as refugees under the USRAP.
  • Capitalize on community and private sponsorship of refugees, while continuing to partner with resettlement agencies.

Additionally, Biden asked the national security adviser to study the impact of climate change on migration and identify options for protection and resettlement of individuals, as well as proposals for how U.S. foreign assistance can mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a February 4 statement that Biden’s order sends a message that refugees are welcome in the United States. The president’s direction will spur innovation and focus technical expertise to better detect fraud and streamline processing and decisionmaking, he added.

“Over the coming months and years, we will rebuild and expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and other humanitarian programs so they reflect our values as a nation,” Blinken said. “I share the President’s ambitious vision for restoring these critical elements of U.S. leadership in humanitarian affairs globally at a time when the world’s most vulnerable people need us the most.”