President Joe Biden announced Monday that he is revising the cap on the total number of refugees who may be allowed into the country this year up to 62,500 – after sustaining blowback from his party’s left after appearing to stand pat at a much lower number.
The administration had previously announced an effort to raise the cap up from 15,000 after getting blasted by critics including Democratic ‘squad’ members Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
The series of U-turns came to a head in April, when the administration had indicated it would move to raise the cap – days after initially standing by a 15,000 figure for the current fiscal year from the holdover Trump administration.
President Joe Biden says he will raise the cap on refugees for the current fiscal year up to 62,500 from the current 15,000
The earlier decision stopped short of raising the cap, even as Biden took actions to expand eligibility for refugees to be resettled. Aides initially said an increase wasn’t necessary. Biden had campaigned on the higher figure.
‘Today, I am revising the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for this fiscal year,’ Biden said in a statement released by the White House Monday.
‘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. 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.’
‘It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin,’ Biden said.
A group of migrants are seen as they were taken to shelters by US officials after the registration process and COVID-19 tests in McAllen, Texas, United States on April 08, 2021
Haitian migrant children play at an evangelical church as they wait for the migrations office to give them a safeguard to continue their way in a caravan heading to the US, in Trojes municipality, El Paraiso department, Honduras, on the border with Nicaragua, on April 21, 2021
The political pushback followed a series of mixed signals.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified Congress back in February of the administration’s intention to go to 62,500.
But Biden said April 16 the Trump administration’s 15,000 number ‘remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.’ That drew an uproar from liberal and left-leaning Democrats.
That drew furious comment from Omar, a Somali-American whose family fled a refugee camp from Kenya when she was a young girl.
‘As a refugee, I know finding a home is a matter of life or death for children around the world. It is shameful that @POTUS is reneging on a key promise to welcome refugees,’ she tweeted.
Biden announced he was raising the cap in a White House statement
‘There are simply no excuses for today’s disgraceful decision. It goes directly against our values and risks the lives of little boys and girls huddled in refugee camps around the world. I know, because I was one,’ she added.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez last month blasted Biden for upholding ‘the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump’ era. She called the 15,000 number ‘completely and utterly unacceptable.’
It all came amid a crisis at the border and administration efforts to surge federal employees to help process unaccompanied immigrants into Health and Human Services Department custody.
Biden said in his statement that the refugee program ’embodies America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world. It’s a statement about who we are, and who we want to be. So we are going to rebuild what has been broken and push hard to complete the rigorous screening process for those refugees already in the pipeline for admission.’
But, he said, ‘The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year. We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway. We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing the regional a
His budget plan sets the 125,000 goal, but does not have the force of law.
He called the number ‘hard to hit,’ and wrote: ‘We might not make it the first year. But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully-vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries.’