Wednesday, 12 May, 2021

Biden to relax refugee limit but won't say how much

Biden Administration, in Response to Criticism, Says It Will Lift Refugee Cap Next Month Biden flip-flops on refugee policy after blowback for keeping Trump-era restrictions
Cary Erickson | 19 April, 2021, 22:25

However, following swift blowback from Democrats in Congress and beyond, the administration issued another statement - stating that the final refugee cap won't actually be determined until May 15. "Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited", she said it's now "unlikely" Biden will be able to boost that number to 62,500, as he had proposed in his plan to Congress two months ago.

"It is simply unacceptable and unconscionable that the Biden Administration is not immediately repealing Donald Trump's harmful, xenophobic, and racist refugee cap", Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said.

Critics from both sides of the political spectrum had accused the president of bowing to political pressure that has been mounting over the record pace of unaccompanied migrants crossing the U.S. -Mexico border.

The cap increase is expected to be implemented by mid-May. "The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people", Biden said in response.

"I'm still just a little bit confused about what changed between 1 p.m. on Friday and 4:30 p.m. on Friday to go from 'We're not raising the refugee cap, ' to 'We are raising it by May 15, '" Fisher said.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he didn't buy that.

Psaki spent a chunk of Monday's briefing cleaning up the administration's Friday rollout of the refugree policy, calling the original 62,500 refugees an 'aspirational increase'.

The program for admitting refugees is distinct from the asylum system for migrants. "Conflating the two constitutes caving to the politics of fear". And we wanted to be clear and send a message that we are a country that is welcoming refugees. In February, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress the administration planned to hike the ceiling from 15,000 to 62,500, but the White House has waffled as a surge of asylum seekers at the US southern border has dominated immigration news. "We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance, and make sure they are treated and put in conditions that are safe".

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New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Biden in a letter Friday that his inaction "undermines your declared goal to reverse your predecessor's refugee policies". Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said that Biden slow walking a decision "has had serious repercussions" - potentially leading to even fewer than 15,000 refugees being admitted this fiscal year.

The official said the Biden administration was open to increasing the 15,000 number, if needed to address an "unforeseen emergency situation".

"The global need for resettlement has never been greater", Hetfield said.

Under Biden's new allocation, 7,000 slots are reserved for refugees from Africa, 1,000 from East Asia, 1,500 from Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 1,500 from the Near East and South Asia. The remaining 1,000 slots are to be used as required.

It is unclear what this number will be, but Biden officials have shared concerns that they can not meet the aggressive demands set by Democrats.

Most of the refugees are from Africa and fleeing armed conflict or political persecution.

If anything, keeping a historically low refugee admissions cap in place could exacerbate the situation at the border, according to Dr. Austin Kocher, a research professor at Syracuse University, who said the decision could "prompt still more refugees to attempt to come through the asylum system, placing an even heavier burden on the US immigration court system".