Biden Reverses Course, Declines to Raise Trump-Era Refugee Cap

POLITICS & POLICY
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia in the East Room at the White House, April 15, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

President Biden on Friday signed an emergency determination to speed the processing of prospective refugees, but will retain the Trump administration’s refugee cap of 15,000-per-year, backtracking on an earlier pledge to raise the cap and allow for additional refugee resettlement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress on February 12 that the Biden administration planned to raise the cap to allow up to 62,500 refugees to settle in the U.S. by the end of the current fiscal year.

The Biden administration was concerned that raising the refugee cap would put undue pressure on the Department of Health and Human Services while the agency attempts to house migrant children at the southern border, a senior administration official told the New York Times. However, refugees from overseas are processed via a separate system from migrant children seeking asylum.

“The President remains committed to raising the refugee cap, and I can assure anyone who has concerns that that remains the case,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing on Thursday.

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The Biden administration will propose slight changes to subcategories of refugee slots, which under the Trump administration prioritized Iraqis working for the U.S. military and other foreign nationals facing religious persecution.

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