US officials promise Biden will raise the cap on refugees, but old target unlikely

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Press conference at the White House in Washington

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) US officials said Sunday that President Joe Biden has pledged to raise the maximum admission limit for refugees this year, which is currently set at 15,000, but said it was unlikely he would the government’s original target of four times as much.

Democrat Biden signed a resolution on Friday restricting admission of U.S. refugees this year to the historically low ceiling of 15,000 under his predecessor Donald Trump, postponing a plan to increase it to 62,500, and upset the wrath of refugee lawyers and some Democratic lawmakers withdrew.

Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” broadcast on Sunday that Biden would revisit the refugee issue in the coming weeks, but “it will be very difficult to get to 62,000 this fiscal year.”

“He is absolutely committed to ensuring that America not only welcomes refugees … but also that we raise the cap. He is committed to that and will pursue it,” said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser to Fox News Sunday.

As criticism of the original decision mounted, the White House issued a statement on Friday that Biden would set a “final, increased refugee ceiling” through May 15 for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Biden’s order to limit admissions to 15,000 was a blow to interest groups who wanted the Democratic president to move swiftly to reverse the refugee policy of Republican Trump, who had pegged the number as a way to limit immigration.

The refugee reception program is different from the asylum system for migrants. Unlike migrants who arrive at a US border and then apply for asylum, refugees still have to be screened abroad and cleared for entry into the US.

The president’s cautious approach appears to be linked to visual concerns about taking in more refugees at a time when more and more migrants have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months.

Sullivan denied that Biden had broken his previous promise to refugees. He said the allocation under the existing refugee cap of 15,000 included “zero people” from Africa, but Biden changed that allocation.

“He currently allows refugees to board planes,” Sullivan told CNN.

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