President BidenJoe BidenBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Olympics, climate on the agenda for Biden meeting with Japanese PM Boehner on Afghanistan: ‘It’s time to pull out the troops’ MORE on Friday signed an order speeding refugee admissions but maintaining fiscal 2021 admissions at 15,000, a cap set by the Trump administration and a number far below the 62,500 figure proposed to Congress earlier this year.
The order would also open up slots to refugees from regions excluded by Trump, including parts of Africa and the Middle East.
But it does not raise the ceiling, as Democrats including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarNew York Times defends itself against Project Veritas defamation suit Tlaib: US policing ‘intentionally racist,’ can’t be reformed Biden, first lady send ‘warmest greetings’ to Muslims for Ramadan MORE (D-Minn.), who came to the United States as a refugee, had urged him to do.
It also represents a retreat for the Biden administration.
The State Department in February issued a report to Congress that proposed raising the number of refugee admissions to 62,500 for the current fiscal year. Biden pledged to over time raise the number of refugees the U.S. accepts to 125,000.
A senior administration official called the Trump refugee policy “restrictive” and cast the new order as an improvement, saying it “is needed to offer protection to vulnerable refugees who could not access the program under the previous one.”
The refugee program, which resettles migrants from their home countries — as opposed to asylum-seekers, who generally present themselves at the border — is designed to extract at-risk individuals from areas affected by conflict or natural disasters.
Omar penned a letter to Biden earlier Friday calling on the president to formally raise the cap to 62,500 after weeks of delay.
“Having fought for four years against the Trump Administration’s full-scale assault on refugee resettlement in the United States, we were relieved to see you commit to increasing our refugee resettlement numbers so early in your Administration. But until the Emergency Presidential Determination is finalized, our refugee policy remains unacceptably draconian and discriminatory,” read the letter, which was also led by Reps. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressive lawmakers press DHS chief on immigration detention Five hurdles Democrats face to pass an infrastructure bill Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan MORE (D-Wash.) and Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyNIH to make announcement on fetal tissue research policy amid Trump-era restrictions Hillicon Valley: House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs | Zuckerberg proposes conditional Section 230 reforms | Lawmakers reintroduce bill to secure internet-connected devices Progressives up pressure on Biden to back COVID vaccine patent waiver MORE (D-Ill.).
Immigration advocates have joined that pressure campaign, as orders to raise and speed refugee admissions have lingered on Biden’s desk for weeks.
Biden’s recent budget proposal requested $4.3 billion for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), setting a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions in 2022.
ORR’s budget in 2020 was $1.3 billion.
ORR, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, helps settle refugees throughout the United States, but it is also the agency in charge of caring for unaccompanied minors apprehended by U.S. border authorities.
The agency’s focus this year has been on the latter mission, as an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum at the border has overwhelmed both ORR and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) infrastructure.
“The surge of migration at the border required us to ensure HHS/ORR, which is responsible for both unaccompanied children and refugee resettlement, had resources to adequately handle both. Our review of the U.S. refugee admissions program we inherited from the previous administration revealed it was even more decimated than we’d thought, requiring a major overhaul in order to build back toward numbers to which we’ve committed,” the senior administration official said.
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