Biden White House reverses on its refugee cap reversal

White House press secretary Jen Psaki had originally said a new cap would be announced by May 15, but admitted that 62,500 refugees would be admitted this year “unlikely”. Raising the cap doesn’t necessarily mean the government will eventually admit that number, which Biden did.

“The sad truth is we won’t get 62,500 approvals this year,” said Biden. “We are working quickly to repair the damage of the past four years. It will take time, but this work is already underway. We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing the regional allocations last month we already increased the number of refugees ready to leave for the United States. “

The limit of 62,500 is broken down into the following allocations from different parts of the world: 22,000 from Africa; 6,000 from East Asia; 4,000 from Europe and Central Asia; 5,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 13,000 from the Middle East and South Asia. Around 12,500 spots are marked as “not assigned”, which increases flexibility.

The White House is expected to notify lawyers and refugee resettlement agencies of the new increase on Monday afternoon.

“President Biden reaffirmed what so many Americans have long known – refugees are welcome and a blessing to our communities,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, in a statement following the announcement. “The new admission cap reflects our core values ​​as a welcoming nation and ultimately aligns public order with the unprecedented global need of millions displaced from their homes by violence, war and persecution.”

The government’s new cap comes after its first decision sparked widespread outcry from refugee resettlement agencies, Democrats in Congress and advocates of immigration rights. These groups and faith-based organizations tore into the Biden administration for sticking to the Trump-era number and calling it “broken promise“And an“ easy mistake. ”Lawyers also accused the White House of using flawed arguments in its decision.

The White House initially defended sticking to the 15,000 cap by finding it lifted restrictions put in place by Trump on regions like Africa and the Middle East. Officials said the refugee resettlement system had been “decimated” more by the previous administration than Biden’s White House had previously recognized, and also cited the increase in migrant children on the border as a reason to maintain the Trump-era ceiling.

Although the White House recognized that processing systems are different for migrants seeking asylum on the U.S.-Mexico border and refugees being resettled in the country, they claimed that the two were correlated.

That justification did not go well with refugee resettlement agencies, some of which have contracts with the government. They argued that they had increased their ability to help larger numbers of refugees.

Proponents say the refugee cap’s rocky introduction has damaged confidence in the Biden government when it comes to welcoming the world’s vulnerable. In the past few days, the advocacy group has turned to the administration’s staffing plans, writing a letter calling on Biden to quickly appoint a knowledgeable person to run the State Department’s Office on Population, Refugees and Migration.

The White House has had problems handling the refugee problem since Biden took office. Discussions about the ceiling imposed by Trump have caused cracks within the administration in recent weeks. Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken backed February’s pledge to hit a limit of 62,500 and repeatedly urged Biden to sign the president’s resolution, a person familiar with the process said. But Biden didn’t agree.

Multiple sources have said that Biden himself has expressed concerns about immigration issues overall and concerns about lifting the cap before the system could catch up. The White House was also sensitive to that steady stream of bad press Coming across the border by conservative media and predicting that if Biden announced that large numbers of refugees would be admitted to it, critics would deliberately merge the two issues to hasten a false narrative about “open borders”.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Minister of Homeland Security, who appeared on CNN, defended the President’s handling of the matter.

“The president has been committed to and rebuilt the refugee program from day one and regained our status as the world leader in refugee affairs. That has been steadfast. We are very proud of today’s announcement and it reflects that commitment,” he said.

Anita Kumar contributed to this report.

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