President Biden officially announced Monday that his administration has reversed course from retaining the Trump-era 15,000 refugee admissions cap for the fiscal year 2021 and will quadruple the limit to now 62,500 after facing strong backlash from prominent progressive Democrats on the initial number amid a surge of illegals crossing the southern border causing a crisis.
“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much, and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin,” Biden said in a statement officially announcing his decision two weeks ahead as planned.
“This erases the historically low number set by the previous administration of 15,000, which did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees,” Biden added. “The new admissions cap will also reinforce efforts that are already underway to expand the United States’ capacity to admit refugees so that we can reach the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions that I intend to set for the coming fiscal year.”
The move comes less than a month after Biden signed an executive order where his administration intended to maintain the 15,000 refugee cap first imposed by former President Donald Trump for 2021, but expanded the regions that the U.S. would accept refugees from by reinstating countries banned under the Trump administration, including countries from Africa and the Middle East.
A senior White House official told the New York Times prior to Biden signing the order that the initial decision to keep the Trump-era cap comes as the administration faces concerns over its handling of the surge of migrants at the southern border.
The announcement immediately sparked fury and widespread criticism from left-wing Democrats and immigrant activist groups.
The sudden reversal came after progressive Democrats, led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) excoriated the initial decision on social media, who argued the numbers are “shameful.”
Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, accused Biden of breaking “his promise to restore our humanity,” while progressive firebrand Ocasio-Cortez accused the Biden administration in a tweet of breaking their promising by “upholding the xenophobic and racist policies.” Omar shared a letter progressive sent to Biden, calling the move from the president “shameful.”
Trump lowered the refugee cap for Fiscal Year 2020 to 15,000, a cap the Biden had promised both during the campaign and his first days in office to raise. In his first week in office, Biden in a speech at the State Department back in early February announced that his administration will move to dramatically increase the number of admissions of refugees into the U.S.
Hours later after signing the presidential determination, the White House caved from the strong backlash faced by Democratic lawmakers and reversed course on the admission cap. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a hasty announcement just two hours after Biden signed the order stating that the White House will unveil an undisclosed number cap higher than the 15,000 cap limit on or by May 15.
In the lengthy statement detailing the newly revised refugee cap on Monday, Biden admitted that the “sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year.”
“We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway,” Biden said. “We have reopened the program to new refugees.”
He added, “We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing the regional allocations last month, we have already increased the number of refugees ready for departure to the United States.”
“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,” Psaki said in a statement announcing the administration will be walking back the president’s executive actions. “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 revised limit will add more entry slots for refugees from specific regions. According to the updated guidelines for the fiscal year 2021, the U.S will accept a maximum of 22,000 refugees from Africa, 13,000 from Near East and South Asia, 6,000 from East Asia, 5,000 from Latin America, and 4,000 from Europe and Central Asia.