White House announced on Friday that President Biden would limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to pre-agreement by the Trump administration set at low level of 15,000, reversing an earlier promise he made of 60,000 people fleeing from war and persecution.
But this move to cap the number at 15,000 prompted such an immediate backlash from Democrats and human rights activists that the White House later retreated and promise to announce a final increased number by May 15.
White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, did not specify how many refuges would be allowed into the country, but she did say that Mr. Biden’s initial goal of welcoming 62,000 seemed unlikely.
The expected number of 62,000 signaled the struggle with the Biden administration to try to reverse the Trump’s harsh immigration policies amid a record surge at the of children and teenagers at the southwest border.
“This Biden administration refugee admissions target is unacceptable,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Facing the greatest refugee crisis in our time, there is no reason to limit the number to 15,000. Say it ain’t so, President Joe.”
Unauthorized migrants crossing the border are processed differently from refugees, who are fully vetted and approved for resettlement before arriving. But Mr. Biden was concerned that lifting the Trump-era cap on refugees would overwhelm already a strapped system according to two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss decision making.
Yet, the Biden administration had been promising for months to raise the cap. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken notified Congress on Feb. 12 that the administration planned to allow up to 62,000 refugees to enter the United States in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 citing it is of “grave humanitarian concerns” around the world. For months, however, Biden did not sign a presidential determination that would have allowed refuges to board flights to America.
Maintaining the Trump-era admissions level of 15,000 leaves thousands of refugees stranded in camps in places like Kenya, Tanzania and Jordan. Roughly 33,000 refugees have already been vetted and are prepared to travel to the U.S.
Vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief— a settlement agency affiliated with evangelical Christian said, “the walk back from Mr. Biden to raise the cap “doesn’t change the reality” that , for now, the historically low cap remains.