Biden will lift refugee cap in May after criticism, White House says
Biden will lift refugee cap in May after criticism, White House says
Biden administration to keep refugee cap at Trump’s level, far less than what it proposed to Congress
17 April, 2021, 07:07
Under Biden's new plan, the 15,000 slots would be allocated this way: 7,000 for Africa, 1,000 for East Asia, 1,500 for Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,500 from the Near East and South Asia, and 1,000 for an unallocated reserve.
The State Department, which coordinates flights with resettlement agencies, booked 715 refugees to come to the United States with the anticipation that Biden would have acted by March, but those flights were canceled since the refugees were not eligible under Trump's rules, according to resettlement agencies.
After four years of inhumane immigration policies under Donald Trump, President Biden promised to change course.
The 15,000 cap fell far below the number laid out in a proposal provided to Congress earlier this year - 62,500 refugee admissions for this fiscal year which would be raised to 125,000 in fiscal year 2022 - sparking fury from Democrats, especially those on the far left, who argued the numbers were "restrictive" and "shameful".
The Biden team's review of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program it inherited from the previous administration revealed "it was even more decimated than we'd thought, requiring a major overhaul in order to build back toward the numbers to which we've committed", the official said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified Congress on February 12 that the administration planned to allow up to 62,500 refugees to enter the country in the fiscal year ending September 30.
Facing swift blowback from allies and aid groups, the White House on Friday said U.S. President Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor's historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially moving only to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlements.
If resettlement continues at the current pace, Biden "is on track to resettle the lowest number of refugees of any president in US history", according to the International Rescue Committee refugee advocacy group.
The White House said Friday's order would speed up refugee admissions to the United States - since October around 2,000 people have been admitted under the programme.
Refugee admissions reached historic lows under Trump, who portrayed refugees as a security threat and made limiting the number of immigrants allowed into the United States a hallmark of his presidency. But this needn't be so complicated: Biden ought to just make good on his campaign promise by raising the cap significantly.
The policy marks a strong reversal from the Biden administration's vow to let in 62,500 refugees, with 125,000 next year. Trump limited most spots for people fleeing religious persecution, Iraqis who have assisted U.S. forces there, and people from Central America's Northern Triangle. "Today's order did that", White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
Another concern has been the record pace of unaccompanied migrants crossing the U.S. -Mexico border, which has drawn in numerous resources that would go to vetting, processing and resettling refugees in the U.S.
Refugees are processed differently in the US immigration system than asylum seekers arriving at USA borders and ports of entry.
"It is a factor", said Psaki, noting that the Office of Refugee Resettlement "does management and has personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both".
Refugees who have applied for refugee status in the United States from the other side of the world go through a multi-step process that can take years.
Biden has not fulfilled his promise to restore America's leadership as a safe haven for the world's oppressed, he added.
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