'Unacceptable and unconscionable': Top progressives outraged Biden won't raise refugee cap

Joanna Estrada
April 17, 2021

In the end, however, Biden never signed the presidential decree that would have allowed it. 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.

Thousands of refugees are waiting in refugee camps around the world who have already been screened and can travel to the United States.

Advocates had been pushing for the administration to change the allocation put in place by Trump, which created new categories for refugees subject to religious persecution.

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". After a torrent of criticism, the administration seemingly backtracked somewhat Friday afternoon, saying it would defer a final determination on this year's refugee limit to May 15 and that it would increase.

"Failing to issue a new determination undermines your declared objective to reverse your predecessor's refugee policies and to rebuild the Refugee Admissions Program to a target of 125,000 people in FY22, and threatens US leadership on forced migration", he wrote.

If resettlement continues at the current pace, Biden "is on track to resettle the lowest number of refugees of any president in USA history", according to the International Rescue Committee refugee advocacy group.

Even if Biden eventually follows through on his earlier promise to raise the limit of refugees admitted to 125,000 - a significant jump from the current and historically low 15,000 - the reality is that the cap would still be dramatically lower than the 231,000 ceiling that was established back when the Refugee Act passed in 1980. Trump limited most spots for people fleeing religious persecution, Iraqis who have assisted USA forces there, and people from Central America's Northern Triangle.

The White House later said Mr Biden would raise the refugee cap next month.

Officials also cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but said the expanding vaccination and testing campaigns are making it easier to process new refugee admissions.

Reports say Mr Biden is concerned about letting in more people amid a record influx at the US-Mexico border. It also bears mentioning that the refugee resettlement program is completely separate from the asylum system, which is what the situation at the border is about, and this administration should not oversimplify the country's immigration system by intentionally confusing these two programs with one another in order to score political points.

"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".

While those who step on US soil are legally entitled to apply for asylum and can eventually appear before an immigration judge in the United States, refugees apply for protection overseas and are forced to clear multiple levels of vetting that can often take years.

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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