The most important news
President Joe Biden has raised the annual cap on refugees in the United States, bowing to his party’s backlash after initially choosing to stick to the Trump-era figure.
The Democratic president raises the ceiling from 15,000 to 62,500 after outrage from progressives and refugee agencies.
Mr Biden said the lower figure “does not reflect American values.”
The president was reportedly worried about letting more people in in a record influx at the US-Mexico border.
The new figure of 62,500 “erases the historically low figure” set by former President Donald Trump, Biden said Monday.
He also said his administration intended to increase the number next year to 125,000 admitted refugees.
But he conceded that the United States would not actually get 62,500 refugee admissions this year, arguing that his administration had to “repair the damage” from the previous one.
The Biden administration has consistently blamed the Trump administration for border issues with the Trump administration, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki calling the immigration system Mr. Trump left behind as “dismantled” and ” unachievable ”.
Mr. Trump has gradually reduced the refugee ceiling throughout his tenure, reducing the number from 110,000 in President Barack Obama’s last year in office to 15,000.
It “did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees,” Biden said in a statement Monday.
Why has he revised the figure?
Mr Biden had said in an April emergency declaration that the admission of up to 15,000 refugees was “justified on humanitarian grounds and was otherwise in the national interest.”
Instead, the president lifted restrictions on resettlement from Somalia, Syria and Yemen and granted more slots to arrivals from Africa, the Middle East and Central America.
But as Mr Biden faced a swift reaction from refugee groups and members of his own party, the White House said hours later that the president would revise the figure in May.
Influential left-wing New York MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had called the refugee lower ceiling “xenophobic and racist.”
World Relief, a humanitarian organization, said the White House claims that the US refugee resettlement program needed to be rebuilt after the Trump years was “a completely false story” and “a purely political calculation.”
Mr Biden’s about-face has forced hundreds of refugees already authorized to travel to cancel their flights.
A White House official told Reuters news agency on Monday that the president chose to raise the ceiling in order “to send a very clear message that the treatment of refugees is a vital part of America’s place. in the world ”, adding that the initial cap“ not send the right message ”.
The decision was applauded by refugee groups, including the International Rescue Committee.
“President Biden’s decision is good for America and good for refugees,” said its managing director, David Miliband, a former British foreign minister. “We welcome the bold steps to rebuild refugee protection after four years of deeply damaging policy.”
What does this have to do with the US-Mexico border?
The country’s refugee program is separate from the asylum system. Refugee status applies to those seeking protection while still abroad, while asylum seekers do so from a point of entry or from within the United States.
But the White House is known to be concerned about the prospect of record numbers of undocumented immigrants arriving at the southern border, with numbers expected to rise as the weather warms.
Figures for unaccompanied children in particular have skyrocketed, straining shelter and available resources. Recent photos from inside a border settlement for migrants showed children crowded together without social distancing.
Last week, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, of the border state of Arizona, expressed frustration with Mr. Biden’s handling of the “crisis” – a label the White House has so far taken. resisted.
On Monday, a Pew Research Center survey found that a majority of American adults were critical of the U.S. government’s handling of the border situation.
About two-thirds of American adults said the Biden administration was doing a very bad or bad job of dealing with the growing number of people seeking asylum. That included more than half – 56% – of Democrats polled.