Published: Sat, April 17, 2021
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Biden will lift refugee cap in May after criticism, White House says

Biden will lift refugee cap in May after criticism, White House says

The executive order signed earlier in the day kept the current cap, set last fiscal year, under former President Donald Trump, in place, but expanded the regions that the USA will accept refugees from to include parts of Africa and the Middle East, reinstating countries banned under the Trump administration.

But Biden has not issued a presidential determination since his administration notified Congress, as required by law.

Following the criticism, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden's original announcement had been "the subject of some confusion" and said the president was expected to increase the refugee cap by May 15. AP's earlier story follows below.

President Joe Biden on Friday stuck with his predecessor's historically low cap of 15,000 refugees for this year and instead moved to accelerate admissions, triggering an outcry from resettlement agencies and even Biden allies that he was backpedaling on a key promise.

The White House indicated the border situation was partly why Biden had not acted before now, even though migrants at the border do not go through the same vetting process as refugees.

A senior administration official said Biden's new allocations could result in speedier admissions of already screened and vetted refugees in a manner of days. The new allocations provide more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and lift Trump's restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong.

Biden returns to the rules that were in place before Trump and welcomes refugees based on their region of the world.

The Biden administration had recently stated it wanted to allow in some 60,000 refugees annually, ramping up to double the following year.

Since the fiscal year began on October 1, just over 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the U.S.

However, Biden also said in his order that if the cap was reached before the end of the fiscal year, then a presidential determination might be issued to raise the ceiling. She did not give the figure, but said it should be lower than the 62,500 promised by the Democratic administration in February. 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".

The policy marks a strong reversal from the Biden administration's vow to let in 62,500 refugees, with 125,000 next year. The senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, forecast "much increased admissions numbers in future years". There is a reserve of 1,000 slots.

Well, refugees is a very small subset of the larger immigrant population, in that you have to have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

The official said the United States would use all 15,000 slots under the Biden order and that officials were prepared to consult with Congress should there be a need to increase the number of admissions to address unforeseen emergencies.

Another concern has been the record pace of unaccompanied migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, which has drawn in numerous resources that would go to vetting, processing and resettling refugees in the US.

"It is a factor", said Psaki, noting that the Office of Refugee Resettlement "has personnel working on both issues and so we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both".

That explanation baffled advocates.

Biden's decision to delay issuing the revised refugee cap for this year appeared tied to concerns over the optics of admitting more refugees amid rising levels of migrants arriving at the U.S. -Mexico border in recent months, and to not wanting to look "too open" or "soft", another U.S. official with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. And at a time when we're facing the world's worst refugee crisis, the USA resettles less than half of 1 percent of the world's refugees, which means that this very narrow lifeline of protection needs to be not only preserved, but expanded to really help those individuals who can not go home or locally integrate.

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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