Amid mounting pressure to address a high number of arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, President Joe Biden did not move to raise a Trump-era ceiling on refugees allowed into the U.S.
Biden moved on Friday to speed up the refugee resettlement process, but he upheld the Trump-era cap on refugees allowed to enter at 15,000 for the fiscal year. Biden pledged to raise the refugee ceiling in his campaign, but his commitment has been interrupted by increased calls for the new administration to address record numbers of migrants arriving at the southwest border.
APNEWSALERT: WASHINGTON (AP) — Biden signs order to speed refugee admissions, but doesn’t lift Trump’s historically low refugee cap for year.
— Michael Tackett (@tackettdc) April 16, 2021
So far, the U.S. has only admitted about 2,000 refugee this year, according to data from the Refugee Processing Center’s Refugee Admissions Report as of March 31, 2021.
A White House spokesperson said in a statement to CNN that Biden “remains committed to rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” and that a “new Presidential Determination is under active consideration.… In the meantime, the work to rejuvenate the program to support increased refugee admissions is well underway.”
“President Biden is quietly maintaining one of the Trump era’s most discriminatory policies and a key element of Trump advisers’ broader agenda of making America white again: the throttling of refugee admissions.” Important piece by @AdamSerwer: https://t.co/JSflXH7Set
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) April 16, 2021
Biden’s hesitancy could be about political optics, aides told CNN. But the Biden administration’s struggle to process thousands of migrants at the border is not to be confused with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which is a different policy area with an in-depth vetting process.
A report released earlier this month by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said that Biden has taken some initial strides to support USRAP, including a February Executive Order that calling to “rebuild and expand” the program and revoking some Trump-era measures, as well as a submitting a proposed Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for fiscal year 2021, which states “to respond to all of these unforeseen and urgent situations, a revised target of 62,500 is proposed and is justified by grave humanitarian concerns and is in the national interest.”
But delays by the Biden Administration issuing the revised policy on refugees have been “highly restrictive and discriminatory,” IRC wrote, and as the result of Trump-era policies still firmly in place “tens of thousands of already-cleared refugees remain barred,” leaving refugees in “limbo.”
“President Biden should act quickly to sign his proposed Presidential Determination, overturning these discriminatory policies, increasing the refugee admissions cap for this year to 62,500 refugees from the historically low current cap of 15,000, and beginning the process of rebuilding the USRAP in earnest,” IRC wrote.
This is a breaking story and will be updated as more information becomes available.