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Reversing course, Biden signs order to keep refugee cap at Trump-era level

  • April 16, 2021

Supreme Court to debate immigration case as Biden wrestles with crisis at southern border

Becoming American: This unaccompanied minor nearly drowned coming to the US. Now he has a new life in Florida

A ‘trashed’ refugee system amid border crisis

The administration has been struggling to manage an influx of migrants, particularly youths, showing up at the U.S. southern border. 

drastically cut by the Trump administration. 

“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,” she said. 

The Trump administration repeatedly slashed the number of refugees allowed to come to the U.S., and Trump himself often attacked immigrants in particularly harsh rhetoric. 

During an October 2020 campaign stop in Minnesota, Trump directly attacked Biden on the issue. He said Biden would turn Minnesota “into a refugee camp … overwhelming public resources, overcrowding schools, and inundating your hospitals.”

The administration intends to use all 15,000 slots for fiscal year 2021, but instead will change the allocation to include regions that had been excluded under former President Donald Trump’s administration, including Africa, Latin America and South Asia, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

The Biden administration’s decision is an about-face from February, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would allow 62,500 refugees to resettle in the United States.

In a Feb. 12 notification to Congress, Blinken said the higher cap was “justified by grave humanitarian concerns” and was in the national interest.

As of March 31, the U.S. has so far admitted 2,050 refugees under the Trump administration’s 15,000 cap, according to the most recent data from the Refugee Processing Center. 

Before Friday’s reversal, Democrats in Congress were pressing Biden to formalize the 62,500 refugee cap.  

“We must keep our promises to people who have fled unthinkably brutal conditions in their home countries and live up to our ambition to provide them a safe haven to re-start their lives,” more than 40 House Democrats wrote in a letter to Biden, issued shortly before the White House’s decision. 

Democrats, advocates criticize the plan

A key Biden ally in Congress blasted the Biden administration’s decision.

Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that Trump’s 15,000 limit is the lowest refugee admissions cap since the inception of the refugee resettlement program 40 years ago.

He said the Biden administration’s delay in issuing its revised refugee cap “has not only stymied the number of refugees permitted entrance into the United States, but also it has prevented the Department of State from admitting vetted refugees currently waiting in the system who do not fit into the unprecedentedly narrow refugee categories designated by the Trump administration.”

Menendez said the delays mean the U.S. could actually admit even fewer than 15,000 refugees, which he called “an appallingly low admissions level set by the previous administration.”

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