WASHINGTON (AP) President Joe Biden officially raised the national refugee admissions ceiling to 62,500 this year on Monday, weeks after facing a bipartisan force backlash for his delay in replacing the record ceiling set by former President Donald Trump.
Refugee resettlement agencies have been waiting for Biden to quadruple the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States this year since Feb. 12, when a presidential proposal was submitted to Congress, indicating he planned to do so.
But the presidential decision was not signed until Monday. Biden said he must first expand the tight eligibility criteria put in place by Trump that had barred most refugees from entering. He did so last month in an emergency decision. But he also said the Trumps cap of up to 15,000 refugees this year remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest, indicating that Biden intends to keep it.
This sparked a strong crackdown for not at least taking the symbolic step of allowing more refugees into the United States this year. Second-row Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois called that initial limit unacceptable, and within hours the White House quickly corrected its course. The administration has promised to raise the historically low cap by May 15, but the White House has said it likely won’t hit the previously described 62,500 Biden.
In the end, Biden walked back on that number.
Biden said he received additional information that led him to sign the emergency presidential decision setting the cap at 62,500.
It is important to take this step today to remove any lingering doubts in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much and who are eagerly awaiting the start of their new lives, Biden said before signing him.
Biden said Trump’s cap does not reflect the values of the Americas as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees.
But he acknowledged the sad truth that the United States would not hit the 62,500 cap by the end of the fiscal year in September, given the pandemic and the limitations on the country’s resettlement capacity, as its administration has attributed in part to immigration restriction policies by the Trump administrations. .
The White House insisted it was unable to act so far because the administration was taxed by a sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied young migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arriving at the southern border of the United States, although any connection between the border and the government’s decision on refugees was not immediately clear. Refugee advocates, including Durbin, accused Biden of playing politics.
Biden said Monday it was important to raise the number to show the Americas’ commitment to protecting the most vulnerable and being a beacon of freedom and refuge for the world.
It also paves the way for Biden to raise the cap to 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year that begins in October.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said work is underway to improve U.S. capabilities to process refugees to accept as many as possible under the new ceiling. Since the start of the fiscal year on October 1, just over 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States.
Travel arrangements are underway for more than 2,000 refugees who were excluded by Trump’s presidential decision on October 27, 2020.
Refugee resettlement agencies have applauded Bidens’ action.
We are absolutely delighted and relieved for so many refugee families around the world who are looking to the United States for protection, said Krish OMara Vignarajah, head of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of nine resettlement agencies. from the country. It sounds like a roller coaster ride, but it is a critical step towards rebuilding the program and returning the United States to our role as a global humanitarian leader.
Biden also added more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and ended Trump’s restrictions on resettlement from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
Some 35,000 refugees have been authorized to travel to the United States and 100,000 are still pending. Resettlement agencies that closed more than 100 offices under the Trump administration said the cap had to be raised to free up resources.
The way you rebuild capacity is by setting ambitious commitments that signal domestic and international stakeholders that U.S. leadership is back, said Nazanin Ash of the International Rescue Committee.
Watson reported from San Diego.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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