White House tells refugee advocates Biden likely to raise cap quickly
White House officials signaled in a conference call with refugee resettlement advocates late Friday that President Joe Biden is likely to raise the current refugee cap of 15,000 quickly, well ahead of the May 15 deadline set Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told the advocates that Biden wants to work quickly to bring the refugees who have already been vetted and cleared to the United States after a prolonged delay, in which many of their flights were canceled.
The call comes after the White House faced immediate blowback from refugee groups and Democratic and progressive lawmakers for initially saying Friday that Biden would keep this fiscal year’s refugee cap of 15,000, and not raise the cap as he had promised to do — a significant reversal from the Biden administration’s proposal in February to lift the cap to 62,500.
After the flood of criticism, the White House backtracked later Friday and announced Biden would set a “final, increased” refugee cap by mid-May, but added that it’s “unlikely” the number would be as high as the 62,500 cap proposed earlier this year.
Biden, a Democrat, took office aiming to set a new course for US immigration policy, including a more compassionate approach, following former Republican President Donald Trump’s hardline policies and vilification of refugees. But his initial decision to not change the Trump administration’s refugee cap of 15,000 for this fiscal year, the lowest since 1980, put him at odds with his promises as a candidate and on track to admit fewer refugees than any other US president in history, according to the humanitarian group International Rescue Committee.
The State Department in February presented Congress with a proposal to expand the Trump-era refugee cap to allow up to 62,500 refugees to be resettled in the US, which was in line with Biden’s campaign commitment to raise the refugee ceiling.
But Biden delayed approving the proposal increase, resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of resettlement flights and leaving thousands of people who had expected to arrive in the US in limbo.
Sources had told CNN that Biden resisted signing off on increasing the Trump-era refugee cap due to political optics, when the administration is facing heat over its handling of an influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border despite it being a separate situation from the refugee program.