The Biden administration backtracked on keeping in place former President Trump’s refugee cap after Democrats and immigration activists angrily demanded that the new president keep his campaign promise to let in more refugees.
Between the White House’s initial announcement that they would keep the cap in place and Biden’s ongoing efforts to continue the expansion of the border wall, the left is enraged. The administration reportedly just seized six acres from a family in Texas for border wall construction and the left fears that the government will continue building the wall.
The president caved to his Democratic base who are demanding that he raise the cap to 60,000+ refugees a year instead of the 15,000 that the Trump-era policy mandated. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not commit to the 62,500 previously promised by the administration but did say that Biden would set a new, higher ceiling in May after initially stating that they would keep the 15,000 refugee limit in place. The whiplash reversal is said to be all about political optics.
The initial announcement got intense blowback from Democrats. Among those objecting the loudest was Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who called the move “shameful.” She sent a letter to Biden earlier lobbying for a raised refugee cap.
(Video Credit: Fox News)
Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the refugee cap was “completely and utterly unacceptable.”
“Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise,” Ocasio-Cortez declared.
Completely and utterly unacceptable. Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise.
Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong.
Keep your promise. https://t.co/A82xYf1XpR
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 16, 2021
This is a testament to the power that people’s movements, community advocates, & progressive coalitions have built.
Thankful for that and the Biden admin’s decision to respond to organizers today.
Now let’s get these families to their new homes here in the United States. 💜 https://t.co/uPpzVMpUS8
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 17, 2021
Representative Pramila Jayapal was incensed: “It is simply unacceptable and unconscionable that the Biden Administration is not immediately repealing Donald Trump’s harmful, xenophobic, and racist refugee cap that cruelly restricts refugee admissions to a historically low level.”
“By failing to sign an Emergency Presidential Determination to lift Trump’s historically low refugee cap, President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity,” she stated.
The Biden Administration must end the cruel and xenophobic policies of the Trump presidency.
Their decision today not to raise the refugee cap is unacceptable and unconscionable. Reforming our broken immigration system should be a top priority. https://t.co/hQaevhqW2e
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) April 16, 2021
The White House claimed that the first directive was the result of “some confusion” and blamed Trump for not being able to achieve the goal of 62,500 refugees this year.
“For the past few weeks, he 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,” Psaki stated.
“While finalizing that determination, the President was urged to take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days; today’s order did that,” the statement noted. “With that done, we expect the President to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.”
The flip-flop still garnered Biden criticism from the left.
“While I’m heartened to learn that @POTUS still intends to increase the number of refugee admissions, I urge the admin. to move with urgency and communicate with clarity,” tweeted Rep. Verónica Escobar (D-TX).
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), was taken by surprise with the announcement following his request to raise the cap. He blasted the administration’s actions.
“Failing to issue a new Determination undermines your declared purpose to reverse your predecessor’s refugee policies and to rebuild the Refugee Admissions Program to a target of 125,000 people in FY22, and threatens U.S. leadership on forced migration,” Menendez said.
As we face the largest global refugee crisis in history, with 29.6 million refugees worldwide, the U.S. MUST show we've recommitted to doing our part to resettle more of the most vulnerable fleeing persecution. The refugee admissions cap must be raised. https://t.co/NV24tAR9C6
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee (@SFRCdems) April 16, 2021
Others were relieved and celebrated the reversal of course by Biden.
“Glad this decision was made, we are a better country for it, it is a better administration because of it,” remarked Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
Biden has claimed that he plans to increase the number of refugee admissions to 125,000 during his first year as president. The president has asked for a $4.3 billion Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) budget for 2022 to ensure that happens.
Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, chalked up the administration’s attitude to “political fear given the border crisis and the desire to start things off small so the refugee agencies have a chance to get restarted.”
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