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White House press secretary Jen Psaki initially said a new cap would be announced by May 15, but admitted that admitting 62,500 refugees this year “seems unlikely.” Raising the cap doesn’t necessarily mean the government will ultimately admit that number, an admission Biden also made.

“The sad truth is, we won’t get 62,500 admissions this year,” Biden said. “We are working quickly to repair the damage of the past four years. It will take time, but this work is already underway. We have reopened the program to new refugees. And by changing regional allocations last month, we have already increased the number of refugees ready to leave for the United States. “

The ceiling of 62,500 will be distributed among the following allocations from various regions of the world: 22,000 from Africa; 6,000 from East Asia; 4,000 from Europe and Central Asia; 5,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 13,000 from the Near East and South Asia. Some 12,500 spaces are labeled as “unallocated”, which adds some flexibility.

The administration’s new cap comes after its first determination sparked public outcry from refugee resettlement agencies, Democrats in Congress and immigrant rights advocates. These groups, along with faith-based organizations, have torn the Biden administration apart for sticking to the Trump-era number, calling it “broken promise“And an” unforced error “. Lawyers also accused the White House of using flawed reasoning in its decision.

The White House initially defended keeping the 15,000 cap, noting it was lifting restrictions imposed by Trump on regions like Africa and the Middle East. Officials said the refugee resettlement system was more “decimated” by the previous administration than Biden’s White House had previously realized and also cited the increase in the number of child migrants at the border as reason to keep the Trump-era ceiling in place.

Although the White House acknowledged that the systems for processing migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border and refugees resettled in the country were different, it claimed the two were correlated.

This rationale did not suit refugee resettlement agencies, some of which have government contracts. They argued that they had increased their capacity to help more refugees.

The White House has struggled to deal with the refugee issue since Biden took office. Discussions over the Trump-imposed ceiling have created rifts within the administration in recent weeks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken backed the February pledge of a 62,500 cap and repeatedly urged Biden to endorse the presidential decision, a person familiar with the process said. But Biden disagreed.

Multiple sources said Biden himself expressed distress over immigration issues as a whole and expressed concern that the cap would be lifted before the system could catch up. The White House has also been sensitive to the constant stream of bad press coming from conservative media about the border and predicting that if Biden announced that large numbers of refugees would be allowed in, critics would deliberately confuse the two issues to speed up a false “open borders” narrative.

Appearing on CNN, Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the president’s handling of the case.

“The President has been committed to supporting the refugee program and rebuilding it and regaining our status as a world leader in the refugee field from day one, and it has never wavered. We are very proud of today’s announcement and it reflects that enduringly. commitment, ”he said.

Anita Kumar contributed to this report.

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