In Another Reversal, Biden Raises Limit on Number of Refugees Allowed Into the U.S.
The action comes about two weeks after President Biden announced that he was leaving the Trump administration’s limit of 15,000 refugees in place, prompting a swift backlash.
President Biden on Monday reversed himself and said he would allow as many as 62,500 refugees to enter the United States during the next six months, eliminating the sharp limits that President Donald J. Trump imposed on those seeking refuge from war, violence or natural disasters.
The action comes about two weeks after Mr. Biden announced that he was leaving Mr. Trump’s limit of 15,000 refugees in place, which drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and refugee advocates who accused the president of reneging on a campaign promise to welcome those in need.
Mr. Biden quickly backtracked, promising only hours later that he intended to increase refugee admissions. With Monday’s announcement, the president formally bowed to the pressure.
“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,” Mr. Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.
His sharp reversal underscored the difficulty he has had on issues involving immigration since taking office. Mr. Biden has struggled to unwind what he calls Mr. Trump’s “racist” immigration policies while also managing a surge of migrant children at the southwestern border. His initial hesitation to allow tens of thousands of additional refugees into the country was a recognition that he was already being criticized for failing to stem the flow of illegal immigration from Central America.
Over the past four years, efforts by Mr. Trump to limit the entry of refugees were among the most potent symbols of the United States’ decision to turn away from its decades-long role as the leading destination for displaced people around the globe.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Mr. Biden promised to restore the country’s reputation for welcoming those seeking safety, saying he would allow as many as 125,000 refugees to enter in his first full year in office. He took a step toward that goal in February, promising to allow as many as 62,500 refugees into the United States for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
So an announcement on April 16 that he was keeping the Trump-era limits in place for the time being was all the more baffling for those expecting a significant increase.
White House officials have insisted that Mr. Biden’s intentions in mid-April were misunderstood. The president says he always intended to raise the refugee cap “should the pre-existing level be reached and the emergency refugee situation persist.” The Biden administration has resettled roughly 2,360 refugees out of the initial mandate of 15,000, according to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement agency.
Administration officials also argued that increasing refugee admissions could overwhelm the Department of Health and Human Services’s office that is also responding to thousands of young asylum seekers crossing the border.
That logic, which was also adopted by the Trump administration to sharply cut refugee numbers, drew criticism from refugee advocates who accused Mr. Biden of conflating two different immigration systems.
While the Department of Health and Human Services does provide shelter to minors who cross the border, it plays a smaller role in processing refugees compared with the Departments of State and Homeland Security. The Department of Health and Human Services does eventually provide financial assistance to refugees after they arrive in the United States.
In his statement on Monday, Mr. Biden appeared to acknowledge that he had fumbled his handling of the issue by sending the wrong signal to the world.
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