Published: Sun, April 18, 2021
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Biden accelerates refugee admissions but stops short of lifting Trump cap

Biden accelerates refugee admissions but stops short of lifting Trump cap

The White House issued a statement Friday saying Biden would set a "final, increased refugee cap" by May 15 for the remainder of the fiscal year.

"We're gonna increase the numbers", Biden told reporters at the Wilmington Country Club after a round of golf, noting that the situation on the southern border had complicated things.

Early on Friday, the U.S. administration sent an email saying it would only accept 15,000 refugees in the fiscal year, which ends on 1 October.

But if the cap is reached before the end of the current budget year and the emergency refugee situation persists, then a presidential determination may be issued to raise the ceiling.

Some 35,000 refugees who have already been vetted and cleared for travel to the US will wait overseas, with over 100,000 more in the pipeline unsure how long they will have to wait as well, according to the International Rescue Committee, a resettlement agency.

Biden earlier Friday moved to accelerate refugee admissions but kept his predecessor's historically low cap of 15,000 refugees for this year, triggering a backlash from Democratic lawmakers and resettlement agencies.

"Say it ain't so, President Joe", Durbin said in a statement.

"The President remains committed to raising the refugee cap, and I can assure anyone who has concerns that that remains the case", White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing on Thursday.

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

But resettlement agencies have told ABC News that they could meet Biden's proposed 62,500 cap with help from the administration - something the administration doesn't seem intent on providing.

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.

The Biden administration's recent budget proposal requested 4.3 billion USA dollars for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), setting a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in 2022.

Led by Representative Ilhan Omar, who was a refugee herself when she arrived in the USA as a child, the letter highlighted the lawmakers' concerns over the Biden administration's lack of movement toward reversing Trump's drastic refugee policy. Communities across the United States, from local groups to faith-based institutions, are ready to welcome these refugees.

Left-wing NY congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong".

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the agencies involved in refugee resettlement in the U.S., had slammed the earlier decision by Biden, saying that while it understands ramping up admissions "can seem daunting", it opposed the Biden administration's move.

Unauthorised migrants crossing the border are processed differently from refugees, who are fully vetted and approved for resettlement before arriving. Advocates did say that changing the Trump-era allocations could allow for a wider group of refugees to be reconsidered for resettlement.

The announcement came after Biden was criticized by fellow Democrats for refusing to raise the cap as part of the determination he signed earlier in the day. The Trump administration's initial cap at 30,000, was even too low for Harris in 2018.

Pramila Jayapal, the co-chair of the White House Caucus, had denounced the White House on Friday after its initial decision to keep the refugee cap at 15,000.

During a news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also urged Biden to increase the number of refugees admitted into the USA while defending the Biden administration's response to the surge of migrants at the US's border with Mexico.

In March, at least 172,000 migrants were stopped at the US-Mexico border - the most in 20 years - and many were unaccompanied children.

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.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen.

While running for president, Biden promised to reverse much of the immigration policies of the Trump administration.

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