Health

Biden delays plan for expansion of refugee admissions to US

Share
Chip Somodevilla  Getty Images

Historically, the United States has had a refugee ceiling on average of 95,000 refugees per year.

Biden is changing that by allowing refugees into the United States based on the region they are fleeing.

The White House has walked back an earlier announcement that it will keep the refugee ceiling of 15,000 set by the Trump administration following a widespread backlash.

Refugee advocates called the decision unjustified given that there are around 35,000 refugees who have already been vetted for security and cleared for entry to the United States, with a total of about 100,000 at various stages in the pipeline. "If the current pace of admissions continues - and if the Trump administration's admissions policies remain in place - the Biden administration will admit an estimated 4,510 refugees in FY21, less than half of the past year of the Trump administration and fewer than any President in history".

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later that Biden has been consulting with his advisers to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and October 1, the of the fiscal year.

"Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely", she added.

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter that Biden's move was "completely and utterly unacceptable".

Refugee admissions reached historic lows under Trump, who portrayed refugees as a security threat and made limiting the number of immigrants allowed into the United States a hallmark of his presidency.

The Biden order left some Democrats aghast. "President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity".

Early on Friday, the USA administration sent an email saying it would only accept 15,000 refugees in the fiscal year, which ends on 1 October. The White House has denied such accusations. But migrants at the border seeking asylum are processed in an entirely separate system than refugees fleeing persecution overseas. "There exists a national network of organizations, churches and state offices who have decades of experience resettling refugees", said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group.

Ms Psaki said Mr Biden's order on Friday was meant to allow refugee flights to the USA to begin within days.

The declaration will bring back regional allocations, in effect casting a wider net of who can arrive to the USA under the historically low refugee ceiling now in place. "And so, we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place".

However, Biden is on track to accept the fewest number of refugees this year of any modern president, including Trump, according to a report from the International Rescue Committee.

"As we face the largest global refugee crisis in history, with 29.6 million refugees worldwide, resettlement serves as a critical tool in providing protection to those fleeing persecution", he wrote.

Facing mounting criticism from Democratic allies, the White House said President Joe Biden plans to lift his predecessor's historically low cap on refugees by next month, after initially saying that he would leave the cap in place.

In March, at least 172,000 migrants were stopped at the US-Mexico border - the most in 20 years - and many were unaccompanied children.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen.

The administration now says its widely-panned announcement was meant only to ease restrictions from countries from which refugees are banned and that Mr Biden would raise the cap by 15 May. It also disqualified most other Muslim and African refugees. The new allocation will prioritize them, according to the senior administration official, which they say will allow the 15,000 cap to be met more quickly.

Under Biden's new plan, the 15,000 slots would be allocated this way: 7,000 for Africa, 1,000 for East Asia, 1,500 for Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,500 from the Near East and South Asia, and 1,000 for an unallocated reserve.

Share