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Biden lifts Trump refugee ceiling after backlash

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WASHINGTON President Joe Biden officially raised the national refugee admissions ceiling on Monday to 62,500 this year, weeks after facing a bipartisan force backlash for his delay in replacing the record 15,000 ceiling set by former President Donald Trump.

Last month, Biden decided to expand the eligibility criteria for resettlement, removing a roadblock for refugees entering the United States put in place by Trump, but he initially stopped before lifting the annual cap, assistants saying they didn’t think it was necessary. But Biden faced strong opposition not to at least take the symbolic step of allowing more refugees into the United States this year and quickly turned the tide.

Biden, in a statement on Monday, said the new limit erased the historically low number set by the previous administration, adding that Trump’s cap did not reflect the values ​​of the Americas as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees. .

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 eagerly await the start of their new lives, Biden added.

Biden said it was a 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. , which his administration attributed to certain immigration restriction policies. That said, they maintain that Biden remains committed to setting the cap at 125,000 for the 2022 fiscal year that begins in October, as they work to improve U.S. capabilities to process refugees so that they can accept as many as possible under. the new ceiling. .

Refugee resettlement agencies have applauded the action after criticizing Biden for months for letting the Assets cap stay.

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.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified Congress on February 12 of a plan to increase the admissions cap to 62,500, but no presidential decision followed.

Then, in an emergency declaration on April 16, Biden said the admission of up to 15,000 refugees set by Trump this year remained justified on humanitarian concerns and was otherwise in the national interest.

This sparked a deluge of criticism from his allies on Capitol Hill. Second-row Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois called the initial limit unacceptable. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote in a letter to Biden that failure to release a new ruling jeopardizes your stated goal of overturning the refugee policies of your predecessors.

Within hours, the White House made a rapid course correction. The administration promised to raise the historically low cap by May 15, but said it likely wouldn’t be as high as the 62,500.

In the end, Biden walked back on that figure, although agencies agree it is unlikely to be reached.

We are facing a refugee resettlement process that was eviscerated by the previous administration and we are still in a pandemic, said Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Maryland-based Jewish nonprofit that resettles them. refugees. It’s a challenge, but it’s important that it sends a message to the world that the United States is back and ready to welcome refugees again.

The new allowance instituted by Biden added more niches for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and ended Trump’s restrictions on resettlement from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

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Watson reported from San Diego.

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