President Joe Biden said Monday that he would raise the refugee cap to 62,500 but admitted the number was largely symbolic, The New York Times reports.
Biden announced that he would raise the refugee limit for the current fiscal year to 62,500 in his first weeks in office but last month reversed himself and signed an executive action leaving in place former President Donald Trump’s historically-low 15,000 refugee cap.
The move was met with widespread condemnation from fellow Democrats, prompting Biden to reverse course just hours later.
On Monday, Biden formally announced that he would raise the limit.
“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 in a statement.
But Biden’s not actually admitting 62,500 refugees:
Biden praised the United States Refugee Admissions Program in his statement, saying it “embodies America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world.”
“It’s a statement about who we are, and who we want to be,” he said.
But Biden admitted that the government will not actually admit 62,500 refugees due to budget and staffing cuts.
“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, arguing that his symbolic move was necessary to “remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world.”
Record low admissions:
The US has admitted a record low 2,360 refugees in the fiscal year that began last October, well below Trump’s 15,000 limit.
The Biden administration has blamed an influx of migrants at the southern border even though these are processed by different parts of the federal government.
Biden came under fire from his own party for walking back his earlier promise and slamming Trump’s “racist” immigration policies for months on the campaign trail.
The Times noted that despite Biden’s announcement it is “unclear” whether the administration has done anything to address the concerns that prompted Biden to walk back his pledge just two weeks earlier.
But refugee advocacy groups praised the move.
“We clearly lost 10 weeks of momentum here due to a political miscalculation, but we are elated the White House has put the train back on the tracks,” Mark Hetfield, the head of the resettlement agency HIAS, told the Times.