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The Biden administration has provided some clarification on the president’s controversial announcement on refugees admissions.
The Associated Press previously reported that Biden decided to uphold Donald Trump ’s historically reduced admissions limit by keeping the number of refugees allowed in the country to 15,000. This was a surprising move to many after Biden vowed to open America’s doors to 62,500 people who are escaping war and oppression in their own countries. Rather than increase the cap, Biden inked an emergency determination that changes the allotted number of openings for refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Central America and repeals Trump’s constraints on those from Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. A little over 2,000 refugees have arrived in the U.S. since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year.
The move drew criticism from progressive lawmakers and refugee advocates, who urged Biden to reconsider the admissions cap. Their efforts apparently paid off. By Friday afternoon, the White House claimed Biden had signed the order after being advised to “take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the controversial order did just that, and reassured the country that Biden plans to set a final increased cap by May 15. Psaki did not provide an exact number for the upcoming limit, but said the “initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely.”
“For the past few weeks, [Biden] has been consulting with his advisors to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and October 1. Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely.”
Amid the concern for refugee admissions is the growing number of unaccompanied children and teens who are coming in from Mexico. Resources from the refugee branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, which would normally go to resettling refugees, have been co-opted by the spike in border crossings.
In anticipation of Biden signing his determination earlier, the U.S. government scheduled 715 refugees to arrive in the U.S. Those flights were later canceled because refugees weren’t qualified to travel to the U.S., according to Trump’s policy. The U.S. has also already vetted around 35,000 refugees for travel to America, a process that can take years.
“It took us some time to see and evaluate how ineffective, or how trashed in some ways the refugee processing system had become, and so we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.
While Biden is still looking to boost refugee admissions to 125,000 for the following fiscal year, the president has been thoroughly criticized for his refugee policy.