Biden keeps U.S. refugee cap at 15 000 rather than raise it

Joanna Estrada
April 17, 2021

President Biden, who as a presidential candidate pledged to increase the number of refugees resettled in the United States, is issuing an emergency presidential declaration that keeps the number of refugee admissions for fiscal year 2021 at 15,000, the same level the Trump administration set last fall, the White House confirms.

"Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely", she added.

That same month, the U.S. State Department issued a report to Congress proposing an increase in refugee admissions to 62,500 for the fiscal year.

Under an emergency presidential determination signed by Biden, the United States will offer refugee status to a wider part of the world than had been allowed by Trump, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But later Friday, Biden reversed himself again, with the White House saying the president would consider lifting the cap by mid-May.

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 15 000 cap had been set by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, as part of his anti-immigrant agenda.

The Biden administration had recently stated it wanted to allow in some 60,000 refugees annually, ramping up to double the following year. She called it "shameful" that Biden was "reneging on a key promise to welcome refugees" after Reps. "As we face the largest global refugee crisis in history, with 29.6 million refugees worldwide, resettlement serves as a critical tool in providing protection to those fleeing persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion".

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. That Determination by the previous administration set the refugee admissions ceiling at 15,000 refugees - the lowest cap on refugee admissions since the inception of the refugee resettlement program 40 years ago. Bob Menendez urged Biden to act.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a Somali refugee who arrived in the USA as a child in 1995, penned a furious letter to Biden on Friday in which she said the country's refugee policy "remains unacceptably draconian and discriminatory". But migrants at the border seeking asylum are processed in an entirely separate system than refugees fleeing persecution overseas. Trump limited most spots to people fleeing religious persecution, Iraqis who have assisted USA forces there, and people from Central America's Northern Triangle.

"Having fought for four years against the Trump Administration's full-scale assault on refugee resettlement in the United States, we were relieved to see you commit to increasing our refugee resettlement numbers so early in your Administration", Reps.

"I can assure anyone who has concerns, that the president remains committed to this issue".

Refugee resettlement agencies said it was important that admissions go higher even if it's not possible to meet the target to send a message that America will be a leader again in offering safe haven to the world's oppressed.

"This leadership is sorely needed", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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