'Gasoline on top of that fire:' Why the White House wanted to avoid the refugee issue

But if the White House hoped to avoid a political fire with Conservatives when it announced Biden would maintain former President Donald Trump’s 15,000-person limit – a historic low – it ultimately sparked a debate with Democrats in Congress, Immigrant lawyers and refugee resettlement agencies. Later on Friday, after the spate of convictions, the government turned around and said it would actually increase the number of refugee admissions by or before May 15.

The flip-flop was just the latest example of an otherwise buttoned-down government struggling to find its political base in the immigration arena. Although it has shown embassy discipline regarding Covid-19, vaccinations and the economy, immigration-related issues have haunted the Biden world on several occasions since the president took office. Recruitment in key agencies dealing with immigration policy and enforcement lagged behind the administration, and new officials had to rise quickly even as new challenges emerged. The refugee program was already fraught with troubles left by a Trump White House that gutted it.

Biden’s government has argued that both the situation at the border and the cap on refugee admission are intertwined due to the federal resources they consume. But allies have not found the argument convincing.

To help contain the impact, the White House placed a call with lawyers for refugees and immigrants on Friday after reversing course when it announced its refugee cap. However, attendees couldn’t answer their questions about who played a role in the decision and why the May 15 deadline to increase admissions wasn’t mentioned until hours later. The White House asked questions beforehand and picked five according to a source of the call.

Several supporters of the call said they made him dissatisfied with the White House’s explanation of his decision and the subsequent step backwards.

“They figured this could be used against them politically,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals. “The waffling is likely to be used against them more than if they had just done the right thing.”

Carey, who spoke to White House officials on the phone late Friday night, said he was pleased the government had reversed its original decision to keep refugee admission at 15,000 but said, “The statement and the attempt to trace their mark to blur are not very convincing. ”

A White House adviser said Tuesday the government wanted to make sure the problem wasn’t rushed and instead allow enough time to properly review a refugee system that they said Trump left behind more scooping outs than they originally expected .

“This should only ever be the beginning,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday. However, the White House didn’t make it clear until the afternoon that Biden would issue a cap increase by May 15.

On Tuesday, Psaki pointed out that the Department of Health and Human Services transferred millions of dollars in funding to regulate capacities to safely house children at the border as a reason for the government’s decision to accept refugees.

Several allies privately admit seeing the immigration missteps as evidence that for the first 100 days the White House was unwilling to tackle the problem, instead focusing on a deadly pandemic and efforts to restart the economy. This included the president, who spoke to reporters after golfing used the word “crisis” To characterize the border, the White House later declined.

Republicans have been pounding Biden on issues on the border with conservative channels like Fox News, which the government regularly rejects. In a Monday interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, Trump described the border as “a terrible situation” that “could destroy our country”.

Still, the Biden government is getting more than its share of pressure to do more from immigrant and refugee rights groups.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services, pushed for news from the White House bringing together asylum seekers at the border and the refugee resettlement program.

“They are different and different – one is largely run by the health and social services. The other is largely run by the State Department, ”she said.

“There is no logistical or administrative reason why we cannot protect these two vulnerable populations,” added Vignarajah, who will meet with other supporters on Wednesday for a meeting with White House officials on refugee resettlement. “I believe that if we are to keep President Biden’s promise to restore the soul of our nation, we must protect both of us.”

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