Refugee Intake: Biden To Keep Low Limit Set By Trump Administration

Grant Boone
April 18, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday signed an order keeping the country's fiscal year 2021 refugee admissions at 15,000, a historical low cap set by his predecessor Donald Trump's administration.

"We're gonna increase the numbers", Biden told reporters at the Wilmington Country Club after a round of golf, noting that the situation on the southern border had complicated things.

The senior administration official said the United States would use all 15,000 slots and that officials were prepared to consult with Congress should there be a need to increase the number to address unforeseen emergencies.

In an emergency determination signed by Biden earlier Friday, he stated the admission of up to 15,000 refugees set by former President Donald Trump this year "remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest".

"The president broke his promise once", Yang said, "and at this point, he needs to back up his statements with concrete actions that will actually start to rebuild the refugee program again".

The White House indicated the border situation was partly why Biden had not acted before now, even though migrants at the border do not go through the same vetting process as refugees.

According to the report, midway through the 2021 fiscal year, only 2,050 refugees had been admitted to the U.S., marking a "new historical low".

While the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement does play a role in responding to minors at the border and refugees overseas, the two immigrant populations are processed through separate lanes.

Refugee groups had expressed frustration that Biden had delayed issuing the cap, which had left refugees who were scheduled to travel stranded.

In a speech to the state department in February, Mr Biden vowed to raise the figure to 125,000 within the next budget year. This breaks with an earlier pledge made by the Biden administration to raise admission.

The Biden team's review of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program it inherited from the previous administration revealed "it was even more decimated than we'd thought, requiring a major overhaul in order to build back toward the numbers to which we've committed", the official said.

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But Biden was concerned that lifting the Trump-era cap on refugees would overwhelm the already-strapped system, according to two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss decision-making.

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.

"Amnesty International has advocated for refugees across the world".

The White House defended the decision by pointing to Trump's destruction of the refugee resettlement program, although resettlement agencies rejected that reasoning, and the situation at the southern USA border, which the administration previously spent weeks downplaying.

Harris consistently vilified the Trump administration's decision to lower refugee caps as abandoning moral leadership and pledged to be an advocate for refugees.

Rep. Ilhan Omar: "As a refugee, I know finding a home is a matter of life or death for children around the world".

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said "it is deeply disappointing that the administration has elected to leave in place the shameful, record low admissions cap of its predecessor".

In March, at least 172,000 migrants were stopped at the US-Mexico border - the most in 20 years - and many were unaccompanied children. Trump had blocked many Muslim and African refugees by prioritizing smaller groups of refugees, like Iraqi Christians.

Specifically, Biden will fill 7,000 slots for refugees from Africa, where a huge amount of people are displaced by conflict, climate change, and more, and 3,000 for Latin America and the Caribbean, where the Venezuela migration crisis threatens to overtake the number of folks fleeing Syria.

"This cruel policy is no more acceptable now than it was during the Trump Administration", Blumenthal said.

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