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Biden backflips on refugee numbers

11 May 20210 comments

US President Joe Biden has reversed a decision to limit the number of refugee the US accepts to 15,000 after a storm of protest from refugee advocates and church groups.

President Biden said he would allow as many as 62,500 refugees to enter the US during the next six months, eliminating the sharp limits that President Trump imposed on those seeking refuge from war, violence or natural disasters.

The initial decision to keep the Trump-imposed limit drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and refugee advocates who accused the president of reneging on a campaign promise to welcome those in need.

President Biden backtracked promising only hours later that he intended to increase refugee admissions. With Monday’s announcement, the president formally bowed to the pressure.

“This erases the historically low number set by the previous administration of 15,000, which did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees,” President Biden said in a statement.

Observers says his reversal indicates the difficulty he has had on issues involving immigration since taking office.

The president has struggled to unwind what he has called Mr Trump’s “racist” immigration policies while also managing a surge of migrant children at the US’ south-western border.

They says his initial hesitation to allow tens of thousands of additional refugees into the country was a recognition that he was already being criticized for failing to stem the flow of illegal immigration from Central America.

Over the past four years, President Trump’s move to limit the entry of refugees was one of the strongest symbols of the United States turning away from its decades-long role as the leading destination for displaced people around the globe.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Mr. Biden promised to restore the country’s reputation for welcoming those seeking safety, saying he would allow as many as 125,000 refugees to enter in his first full year in office.

The announcement on April 16 that he was keeping the Trump-era limits in place for the time being was baffling for those expecting a significant increase.

At the time, David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, had called President Biden’s plan to keep the 15,000-refugee limit a “disturbing and unjustified retreat” from his campaign promises.

Since the reversal Mr Miliband has praised President Biden’s “long legacy of support for refugees, from being a co-sponsor of the Refugee Act of 1980 when he was a member of the Senate, to his commitment to rebuild the resettlement program upon taking office in January.”

Oxfam America, a non-profit organisation, said in a statement: “We are relieved that the Biden administration has, after a long and unnecessary delay, kept its promise to raise the refugee admissions cap for this year to 62,500.”

The backflip on the refugee program is the latest twist in the president’s struggle to deal with the immigration system.

On his first day in office, President Biden proposed a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and issued a number of executive orders aimed at rolling back the Trump administration’s policies.

But after 100 days, immigration legislation has not advanced in Congress.

The administration has also had to defend its response to a surge of migrants at the border with Mexico, even as President Biden has continued to rely on a Trump-era health rule to rapidly turn away many migrants from entering the United States without providing them a chance to apply for asylum.

The administration has said the rule is necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The president’s Republican critics have seized on the issue as a political weapon, accusing Mr Biden of making poor policy choices that opened the floodgates to illegal immigration during a pandemic.

President Biden’s administration has, however, made progress in safely processing migrant children and teenagers out of border detention facilities and into temporary shelters.

White House officials have urged migrants not to come to the United States now, but have promised that Mr. Biden will work to increase legal opportunities to live, work and visit the United States.