Joe Biden raises refugee admissions cap after outcry

A family from Honduras turns themselves into the Border Patrol after crossing the United States border from Mexico on April 29, 2021 near Yuma, Arizona

Getty Images

President Joe Biden has lifted the US annual refugee cap, bowing to outrage from his party after he initially opted to stick by the Trump-era figure.

The Democratic president is raising the cap from 15,000 to 62,500 after outcry by progressives and refugee agencies.

The White House had indicated Mr Biden would revise the figure in May.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Biden said his administration intends to raise this number next year to 125,000 refugees admitted.

The new figure “erases the historically low number” set by former President Donald Trump, Mr Biden said on Monday.

But the United States will not actually achieve 62,500 admissions this year, he said, arguing that his administration had to “undo the damage” of the previous one.

Reports last month said Mr Biden was concerned about letting in more people amid a record influx at the US-Mexico border.

Figures for unaccompanied children in particular have spiked, straining shelters and available resources. Photos from inside a migrant border facility showed minors huddled together in makeshift rooms.

The Biden administration has consistently directed blame for the current problems at the border on the Trump administration, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calling the immigration system left behind by Mr Trump “dismantled” and “unworkable”.

However, World Relief, a humanitarian organisation, last month said White House claims that the US refugee resettlement programme needed to be rebuilt after the Trump years was “a completely false narrative” and “a purely political calculation”.

Migrants at the US Customs and Border Protection temporary processing centre in Donna, Texas, 22 March 2021

Reuters

Mr Biden’s flip-flop on Monday came as a survey from the Pew Research Center found a majority of American adults were critical of the US government’s handling of the border situation.

About two-thirds of US adults said the Biden administration was doing a very bad or somewhat bad job of dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum, according to the findings. This included more than half – 56% – of Democrats polled.

Last week a member of the president’s own party, Senator Mark Kelly, from the border state of Arizona, expressed frustration with Mr Biden’s handling of the “crisis” – a label that the White House has so far resisted.

Mr Kelly also criticised Mr Biden for not including a more detailed plan for the border in his address to Congress last week.

Donald Trump gradually slashed the refugee cap throughout his tenure, bringing the number from 110,000 in President Barack Obama’s last year in office to the record low of 15,000.

This “did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees”, Mr Biden said in his statement on Monday.

The country’s refugee programme is distinct from the asylum system. Refugee status applies to those who seek protection while still overseas, while asylum seekers do so from a port of entry or from inside the US.

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