President Biden will limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to the historically low level set by the Trump administration, rescinding an earlier promise to welcome more than 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution in the country.
The ruling signals Mr Biden’s hesitant approach to rebuilding an immigration system gutted by his predecessor, who attempted to shut the United States off to immigrants. It also comes as the United States grapples with a wave of unaccompanied children and adolescents at the Mexican border.
Even though migrants at the border go through a separate screening process from those fleeing persecution abroad, Friday’s directive comes amid growing concerns that the wave of border crossings had already overwhelmed the refugee branch of the country. Ministry of Health and Social Services, according to two senior officials. administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the decision-making.
Mr Biden’s move is a clear reversal of his February pledge to increase the Trump administration’s ceiling of 15,000 refugees – the lowest in program history. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken informed Congress on February 12 that the administration planned to allow up to 62,500 refugees to enter the country during the fiscal year ending September 30, citing “Serious humanitarian problems” around the world.
But Mr Biden did not sign for two months a presidential decision that would have allowed refugees to board flights to the United States.
Maintaining the Trump-era admissions level at 15,000 leaves thousands of refugees who were allowed to travel to the United States stranded in camps around the world. Approximately 35,000 refugees have already been screened by the US government and are ready to travel to the United States.
While those entering American soil have the legal right to seek asylum and may potentially appear before an immigration judge in the United States, refugees seek protection abroad and are forced to go through several levels of verification which can often take years.
The Refugee Resettlement Office is responsible for the accommodation of migrant minors crossing the border, but has a separate budget line to help refugees who come from abroad. The State Department is also the agency that assists refugees for the first three months after their arrival.
Although Thursday’s directive maintains the cap on the number of refugees admitted to the country, Mr Biden has made changes to the program. The Trump-era agenda prioritized Iraqis who had worked for the US military and the people, mostly Christians, who face religious persecution. But the classification also disqualified most of the other Muslim and African refugees. As a region, Africa has the most displaced people in need of resettlement.
Mr. Biden will now welcome refugees to the United States based on the region they are fleeing – reverting to a system the United States used before the changes made by the Trump administration. The niches cut out include 7,000 Africans, 1,000 East Asians, 1,500 Europeans and Central Asians, 3,000 Latin Americans and Caribbean, and those of the Near East and South Asia.
The change will allow many of the 700 refugees to travel to the United States after their flights to the United States were canceled when Mr Biden delayed the designation of the admission level.
Biden administration officials said the change was needed to accommodate the 15,000 refugees in the United States. Mr Biden still plans to increase the level of refugee admissions to 125,000 in October for the next fiscal year, the administration official said.
Yet immigration advocates were not satisfied.
“The legitimate erasure of discriminatory admission categories does not dispense with the need to admit more refugees, ”said David Miliband, Chairman and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.