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After outcry, White House says Biden will lift refugee cap in May

President Joe Biden
Posted at 12:58 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 17:29:00-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Joe Biden is expected to increase the refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15.

Biden earlier Friday moved to accelerate refugee admissions but kept his predecessor’s historically low cap of 15,000 refugees for this year, triggering a backlash from Democratic lawmakers and resettlement agencies.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later that Biden has been consulting with his advisers to determine what number of refugees could realistically be admitted to the United States between now and October 1, the start of the fiscal year.

“Given the decimated refugee admissions program we inherited, and burdens on the Office of Refugee Resettlement, his initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” wrote Psaki in a statement.

While finalizing that determination, Psaki says the president was urged to take immediate action to reverse the Trump policy that banned refugees from many key regions, to enable flights from those regions to begin within days.

Biden signed an emergency determination Friday that did that, which officials say will speed refugee admission to the U.S.

The new allocations provide more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America and lift Trump's restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

“With that done, we expect the president to set a final, increased refugee cap for the remainder of this fiscal year by May 15,” wrote Psaki.

At the White House press briefing on Friday, Psaki also attempted to explain the delay in Biden's action on the refugee cap.

“It took us some time to see and evaluate how ineffective, or how trashed in some ways the refugee processing system had become, and so we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place,” she said.