President Joe Biden announced Monday a fourfold increase in annual United States refugee admissions this year, capitulating to liberal critics who had criticized Biden for not increasing the cap sooner.
What is the background?
Biden took heavy fire from Democrats after he refused to increase the number of refugees the U.S. would admit this year. In fact, Biden signed an order maintaining a limit of 15,000, which was established under former President Donald Trump.
Democrats accused Biden of breaking his campaign promise to significantly increase Trump-era refugee limits.
“Completely and utterly unacceptable. Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise. Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong. Keep your promise,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said, “It is simply unacceptable and unconscionable that the Biden Administration is not immediately repealing Donald Trump’s harmful, xenophobic, and racist refugees cap that cruelly restricts admissions to a historically low level … President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity.”
What did Biden do now?
In a dramatic reversal, Biden announced Monday he was revising the annual refugee cap to 62,500 for the current fiscal year and promised to raise the limit to 125,000 for the upcoming 2022 fiscal year.
“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 said.
Biden first promised to raise the cap to 62,500 in February, which made last month’s announcement even more confusing for Democrats. Contextually, however, it came as Biden was being criticized for the growing migrant crisis at the southern U.S. border.
Taking more shots at Trump, Biden revealed the impact of the admissions cap increase is immediate.
“So we are going to rebuild what has been broken and push hard to complete the rigorous screening process for those refugees already in the pipeline for admission,” Biden said.
“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,” 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.”
Biden has made comprehensive immigration reform a central part of his presidential plan.
On his first day in office, Biden proposed an ambitious plan that, among other things, would create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally as well as provide assistance for increased migrant integration into society.
According to the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is exploring unique legislative avenues to enact Biden’s immigration agenda, including using the budget reconciliation process.
If permitted, the process would allow Democrats to pass immigration reform with a simple majority of 51 votes.
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Author: Chris Enloe
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