Biden backtracks on keeping Trump cap on refugees | Sunday Observer

Biden backtracks on keeping Trump cap on refugees

18 April, 2021

NEW YORK, April 17 (BBC) - President Joe Biden has reversed course hours after signing an order to keep the number of refugees admitted annually to the US at Trump-era levels.

Biden drew ire on Friday as he held the cap at the historically low figure of 15,000, two months after he pledged to increase it to 65,500.

The White House later said Biden would raise the refugee cap next month.

Reports say Biden is concerned about letting in more people amid a record influx at the US-Mexico border.

UN figures indicate there are more than 80 million refugees worldwide, with 85% of them hosted by developing countries. The White House said Friday’s order would speed up refugee admissions to the US - since October around 2,000 people have been admitted under the program.

The order also changes the allocation of who is allowed in, with more slots being provided to arrivals from Africa, the Middle East and Central America, and an end to restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

But Biden - who vowed to raise the cap on refugees during his campaign - kept the maximum number allowed in annually at 15,000, a ceiling set by his predecessor as president, Donald Trump.

Biden stated the Trump-era cap “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest”.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Democratic president’s directive had been the “subject of some confusion” after the news sparked outrage among aid groups, as well as from within Biden’s own party. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez described the figure as “appallingly low”.

Ms Psaki blamed Biden’s failure to deliver on the 62,500 figure that he announced to Congress two months ago on “the decimated refugee admissions programme we inherited”.

Ms Psaki said Biden’s order on Friday was meant to allow refugee flights to the US to begin within days.

The press secretary added: “With that done, we expect the president to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.”

She did not specify a number, though she said “his initial goal of 65,000 seems unlikely”.